In this stunning version of laab, I’ve played around with some of the traditional elements: rather than hand-chopping the meat into a mince and then braising it, I’ve worked with venison’s love of a quick, hot sear to keep the meat meltingly tender, and I’ve used Thai basil – usually more of a feature in curries – rather than coriander, because it’s anise flavor works brilliantly with venison. I’ve discovered that venison goes down a treat with my young children and I think partly this is because it’s so tender, none of the chewy, sinewy-ness that they find challenging. This recipe serves four.
2 long shallots, or pink Thai shallots if you can get them
2 spring onions
1/2 cup mint leaves, washed, stems removed
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, washed, stems removed
1/3 cup toasted ground rice*
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 hot green chilli, finely chopped
400g venison medallions (I used Silver Fern Farms vacuum packed medallions)
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
Juice 2 limes
2 tsp grated palm sugar
Slice the shallots into thin circles and the spring onions into rings, using both green and white parts. If the herbs are large of leaf, you might like to roughly chop them – but I like to use baby leaves and leave them whole.
Blot any excess blood from vension medallions with a paper towel. Lightly season on each side with salt and white pepper. Heat a little grapeseed oil (or other oil with a light, clean flavor) in a heavy frying pan. Place the vension in the hot pan and cook for around 2 minutes on each side. At the end of cooking add the soy sauce to the pan and turn the vension so it gets coated with a bit of soy. Remove venison from the hot pan and leave to rest for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking the fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar.
Slice the rested venison into thin strips. It will still be fairly crimson at the centre – this is good. The dressing will actually cook it little more.
In a large bowl, mix together the venison (along with any juices from pan or chopping board), shallots, herbs, toasted ground rice, dried chilli and fresh chilli. Pour over the dressing and toss through. Spoon onto a serving dish. I like to serve laab with both sticky rice, to mop up the delicious juices, and lettuce cups to wrap it all up in – baby cos works well.
*To make toasted ground rice, toast raw grains of jasmine rice in a hot dry pan until golden and fragrant, then grind to a coarse powder. You can use a large mortar and pestle to do this, or a spice grinder.