My best friend at work, Jenny, shares her delicious Laotian dishes with me at lunchtime, and shares the recipes as well. She makes this with jasmine rice. I made it with brown rice.
This Laotian lemongrass-scented Kang (soup) is easy to make. The opo squash, also known as bottle squash because of its shape, is mild flavored when young. If you can’t find it in your local produce or Asian market, you can substitute chayote or zucchini. Jenny uses the seeds along with the flesh.
I bought the lemongrass, opo and Thai basil from an Asian market in Oakland. But next summer I’m going to try to grow them. Each stalk of lemongrass can become a new plant. Just save the bottom 4 inches above the bulb and suspend in water with toothpicks. The bulb will develop roots and the plant will grow quickly. I’ve already planted one in the yard and will harvest it come summer. Thai basil is very fragrant; use just a bit so as not to overwhelm the lemongrass.
You can make this with pork or chicken. I used sustainably raised pork (from Niman Ranch) since I have issues with the environmental damage caused by commercial pig farms. It’s more expensive but you don’t use much in this recipe. If using a chicken breast, slice it thinly and add them with the opo for the last 15 minutes.
6 cups chicken broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)
1 tomato, minced
1/4 pound center-cut boneless pork chop, fat trimmed or chicken breast.
1 stalk lemon grass
1/2 cup rice (I used brown rice)
2 opo squash
Salt to taste
fresh Thai basil leaves
Cut lemon grass into 4 inch pieces, smash with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) or rolling pin on a cutting board to release the scent, then boil in broth with tomato pieces. Cut pork in thin slices and add to broth with rice. Simmer for 30 minutes. Peel the opo and slice into bite sized pieces. Fish out the lemon grass and discard. (you don’t want to bite into one while eating the soup!) Add the opo and cook 15 minutes. Salt to taste. Shred basil and garnish each bowlful.