Born in Laos and raised in Kansas, chef Soulayphet Schwader is celebrating the Laotian New Year with a weeklong dinner series at his New York City restaurant, Khe-Yo, from April 11-16.
Also known as Songkran or Pii Mai, the Lao New Year marks the time of year when families visit their town’s Buddhist temple to bring home-cooked meals with sticky rice to the monks, receive their blessings and spend time with their community. “Phet,” as he’s known in the restaurant, is even bringing in a special guest for the celebration: his mom, Soubanh, is coming from her home in Wichita to perform the Su-Kwan ceremony, blessing diners and giving them a special bracelet that will cleanse their spirit for the year ahead.
Try Schwader’s recipe for pouhn-pa, a poached black bass dish served during the holiday, and get your celebration on!
- 1 whole black bass, scaled and gutted, cut into two fillets (keep the head and bones for broth)
- 2 stalks lemongrass, smashed and cut into 4-inch pieces
- 1 small knob galangal, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 10 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- fish sauce, to taste
- 2 jalapeños, stemmed
- 4-5 whole shallots, peeled
- 3-4 fresh Thai chilies
- 5 cloves garlic
- 5 apple eggplant, cut in half
For the fish
Bring fish head and bones with lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, sugar and fish sauce. Cover with 2 quarts water, simmer for 30-45 minutes to develop flavor. Adjust with more fish sauce if needed.
Poach the bass fillets in the broth for 8-10 minutes, making sure not to overcook.
Char jalapeños, shallots, garlic, chilies and eggplant on a grill, then wrap in aluminum foil and roast in the oven at 375°F until soft (approximately 20-25 minutes).
Take the charred and roasted ingredients and smash in mortar and pestle, then stir in the poached bass fillet and season with fish sauce and lime juice.
Garnish with cilantro and serve alongside fresh vegetables, like cucumber, cabbage, lettuce or broccoli.