When we think of April holidays, we typically list celebrations like Earth Day, Passover, and Easter. But did you know that April also marks the Laos New Year? This three-day stretch, formally called Songkran or Pi Mai in Laos, is the most widely feted festival in the Southeast Asian country.
Soulayphet Schwader, the executive chef at N.Y.C.-based restaurant Khe-Yo, is ringing in the New Year with a special tasting menu of Laos-inspired dishes, like his Smashed Papaya Salad. “Papaya salad is a traditional Laotian dish that is a main staple for any true Lao household,” explains Schwader. “The main flavors prevalent in Laotian cuisine would be sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, with the use of a lot of fresh herbs and vegetables.” This dish has all of that, plus some spice. Try making the recipe below.
Smashed Papaya Salad
2 cups shredded green papaya
4 garlic cloves
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
5-10 fresh Thai chili peppers (more or less depending on how spicy the chili peppers are, and how spicy you want the salad to be)
2 tsp shrimp paste ($3; indofoodstore.com)
1 tbsp sugar
Lime juice, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
Purple or green cabbage
Pork rinds for garnish
Toasted pumpkin seeds or peanuts for garnish
1. In a mortar, start by combining the garlic, chili peppers, sugar, and shrimp paste together until roughly smashed.
2. Add the shredded papaya and tomatoes and smash some more.
3. Season with lime juice and fish sauce. Place in a bowl with chopped cabbage, and garnish with pork rinds and pumpkin seeds or peanuts.