Through the years, these simple memories still adorn my world and make me smile. As I sat contemplating my entry for Challenge 5, which was to re-invent the pizza (loosely interpreted as having a base, sauce and at least one topping), I realized that I would use this opportunity to share with you my all-time favorite Lao breakfast: Grilled ginger-marinated pork belly atop a bed of Lao tomato jaew (pronounced "jay-ow," or otherwise known as my Motherland's version of a spicy roasted tomato sambal sauce) and warm sticky rice "pizzetas." The dish is simple, but painfully nostalgic and brutally hearty with every bite.
Lao-style Pork Belly-Ginger "Pizzetas" with Smoky Tomato Jaew
Makes at least 10 pizzetas
STEP 1: Sticky Rice (aka Sweet or Glutinous Rice)
Soak 2 cups of sticky rice for 2 hours. Drain rice and put in a steamer basket lined with cheesecloth. Steam rice, covered with lid, over boiling water until shiny and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Sticky rice is best served hot or warm.
For a tutorial on steaming sticky rice, please head over to Import Food. The only difference I noted was that the site tells you to steam the rice for 45 minutes, which in my book, is too long, so go with the 20 minutes that I indicated above.
STEP 2: Ginger-Marinated Pork Belly
- 1/2 lb pork belly, chopped into 3 inch chunks
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 ginger slices, peeled & minced
- 3" lemongrass stem (discard outer layer), minced
- Combine all ingredients and coat the pork belly in the marinade. Transfer to an air-tight bag or container and let marinade for at least 1 hour.
- Grill or broil pork belly at 475 (degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes or until pork skin is crispy and sizzling.
- Once cooked and slightly cooled, cut pork belly into bite-sized slices
- 10 cherry tomatoes or 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, roasted
- 6 Thai chiles; de-stemmed & charred (adjust based on your spice threshold)
- 2 slices ginger, charred
- 10 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt (adjust based on your preference)
- Aluminum foil
- 1 bamboo skewer, pre-soaked in water for 20 minutes
- Heat broiler to 450 (degrees fahrenheit) ; place a rack towards the top of the oven. (You can also wrap the tomatoes in foil and place it over a grill)
- Places the tomatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and roast for about 20-25 minutes
- Skewer and char the peppers and ginger, turning once, for about 5 minutes. Let cool.
- Transfer peppers & ginger and to a food processor; pulse until chopped. Add tomatoes; pulse until chunky. Transfer sauce to a bowl; stir in chopped cilantro, fish sauce and salt.
- Take a fistful of sticky rice, form into a ball and flatten into small round pizzettas
- Spoon a dollop of Lao tomato jaew onto the sticky rice, spreading evenly to coat and form a layer
- Top each pizzetta with 2-3 slices of pork belly and garnish with freshly-sliced scallions
And of course, for my foodie fans who are adamant about the traditional Italian-style pizza, I made those as well. How could I forget about them, right? After slathering on a generous layer of Tuscan tomato-basil sauce, I topped them with yellow & red heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella & basil, and Columbus Italian dry salame all piled on top of a rustic pizza dough.