My standard meal at my favorite Laotian restaurant in Oakland is a grilled Lao sausage (sai oua), papaya salad (thum mak hoong), and sticky rice. The sausages there are scored and then deep fried, leaving the perfect, crispy edges, which I love so much. Paired with the funkiness of fermented fish sauce (padaek) and crab paste, it’s really just the perfect meal. The sausages are wonderful with just sticky rice and herbs such as mint and lettuce as well. It’s the perfect summer BBQ food. I just can’t wait to get grilling again!
If you have no means to stuff the sausages, don’t be deterred: the sausages taste great without the casings too. Give it a try!
Food processor -OR- Mortar and Pestle
Sausage stuffer of choice
4 pounds (~2kg) ground pork shoulder
1 pound (~500g) ground pork belly
7 stalks lemongrass (about half a cup)
2 European shallot (~100 grams), diced
8 cloves garlic
12-15 kaffir lime leaves
15-20 fresh or frozen Thai peppers, or to taste
1 cup cooked sticky rice (room temperature)
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons neutral oil
2 tablespoons cold water
Let’s start! To prepare the lemongrass, strip the fibrous outer stalks and trim about 1 cm of the root end. Measure about 3-inches from the root, cut and discard the tops. Slice thinly and set aside.
In a food processor, add the sliced lemongrass, shallot, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai peppers. Pulse into a coarse paste. You may use mortar and pestle as well if you do not have a food processor. In case that you have neither, it is possible to finely chop the ingredients.
Your paste should look something like this:
Incorporate the rest of the ingredients together: the sticky rice, salt, fish sauce, black pepper, oil, and cold water.
Combine well with your hands. Kitchen gloves would be ideal to avoid a burning sensation in your hands (or in some cases, your eyes, when you remove your contacts) . When your meat is well mixed, pop it back into the fridge for an hour to allow the flavors to marinate and cool down.
If not using casings: Sausages can be free-formed and then grilled using a skewer or baked in the oven at 400F. This method won’t yield the same results, but would still produce a very tasty and crispy sausage!
If using casings: Prepare your sausage casings by rinsing in cold water and soaking for 15-20 minutes. After they are soaked, run cold water through the casings all the way to the opposite end. This will rinse out the extra salt inside. If the casings are well-soaked, they should slide on the stuffing tube easily. Slide the entire casing onto the tube and tie the end into a knot.
Using the stuffing mechanism of your choice, start stuffing the sausage. I won’t go into too much detail. This part is up to you. I am not the best at stuffing sausages and struggled quite a bit here… ! The sticky rice used in this recipe will make stuffing using a Kitchen Aid more difficult, since the filling would be inclined to stick to the inside much more than any other sausage!
Once the sausages are stuffed, use twine to tie sausages into smaller segments like so. The twine can be removed after grilling. You can optionally leave the sausages in the fridge overnight to develop the flavor.
If you do not want to use it immediately, simply freeze them in an airtight freezer bag until needed.
At this point, it was getting quite late in the evening. I had to test out a sausage before going to bed. The wait was killing me! I pan fried these with a bit of water to allow the steam to cook it through. Not as great as the grill (and splattered oil EVERYWHERE), but the verdict was a delicious one.
Please enjoy the sausages with sticky rice and herbs, or with papaya salad. Let me know how it goes!