The lightest of pork scratchings, as airy as prawn crackers, should accompany this one, the perfect antidote to the sharpness and crunch of the salad. But not essential. A powerful and pungent fish sauce, paa-daek, is used by Laotians in their dressing. I suggest adding a touch of crushed dried shrimp to regular fish sauce if you really want to score goals. They’d throw in some maak kawk, a sour olive-shaped fruit, too (no, you’re not expected to find that one).
Pound together the chillies and garlic with the salt until crushed and pasty. Pound in the sugar and dried shrimp, then add a small handful of the papaya and crush until pasty. Add the aubergines and very lightly bash, so they’re lightly crushed but still chunky, then stir through the lime juice, fish sauce and tomatoes. Tip the mixture into a bowl, then add the remaining shredded papaya and the herbs and toss through until all is well coated and mixed. Pork scratchings on the side, and you’re away.
© 2004 Alastair Hendy. All rights reserved.