Yai Gaew’s Lao Soup

Yai Gaew’s Lao Soup
Preparation time: 45 min. Cooking time: 30 min Medium Serves: 4-6


Gaeng Oom was the specialty of my wife's late mother, a supremely talented cook. Aromatic, spicy, and easily adaptable to whatever is fresh--it is Northeastern Thai/Lao cooking at its best. Be sure to include the dill, though, since it is the star here.


  • 2-3 Thai chiles, stemmed
  • 1/4 c. ground lemongrass (can purchase frozen)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • 1 lb. meat with bones (pork spareribs cut horizontally into strips and separated, chicken drumsticks, etc.)
  • 1/2 lb. meat without bones (sirloin, ball steak, boneless chicken thighs, etc.), sliced into thin pieces
  • 1 lrg. bunch leafy green vegetables (kale, collard greens, etc.), stems removed, washed, and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 lb. other green vegetable (green beans, asparagus, etc.), washed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, rinsed and left whole
  • 1 lrg stalk fresh lemongrass, trimmed and cut into 1.5" segments
  • Optional: 1/4 c. Lao sticky rice, soaked 1 hour
  • 1 lrg. bunch fresh dill, cleaned, large stems removed, and rough chopped
  • Thai fish sauce to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Optional: 1 tsp. fermented fish paste (plaa raa, a gray colored paste, made from Gouramany fish in jars where the English label simply says “fish sauce”)


First, soak the sticky rice, and clean and prepare the vegetables. Season the meat with a sprinkle of salt to taste. Put the chiles, ground lemongrass, garlic, and shallots in a mortar and pound to a paste.

Heat 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil at medium high in a large pot. Add the lemongrass paste mixture and cook a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the meat with bones to the pot and brown, adding a little more oil if necessary. Add the meat without bones and cook briefly. Add the vegetables and a cup of water. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are almost done.

Drain the sticky rice and pound into a paste in the mortar. Add the sticky rice paste to the pot, along with a bit more water if it is not looking like a stew. Simmer 3-4 minutes more. Add the dill and simmer a couple more minutes. Season to taste with fish sauce, sugar, and fermented fish paste (it really is great in small doses).

© Ying & Scott Mossman


Soup  · Thai  · Lao

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