Bon Paa with Sticky Rice

A traditional Laotian dish with the distinctive tastes of fermented fish and smoky chillies from Natacha Du Pont de Bie
Bon Paa with Sticky Rice
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 2
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes plus 2 hrs soaking for the rice
  • Effort: easy


  • 150 g sticky rice
  • 1 large shallot or red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 small red chillies
  • 2 tbsp paa-dek or fish sauce
  • 3 golf-ball sized white/green aubergines, cut into quarters
  • 20 cm portion sea bass, skin on

Tips and Suggestions

this is usually eaten with a large plate of fresh, slightly steamed vegetables such as green beans, cucumber and carrots. It can be eaten as a dish in itself or pounded more finely and used as a dip for the steamed vegetables.

Paa-dek is a fermented fish sauce made with Gouramy fish chunks, salt and rice husks. It is a very important source of protein in Laos.


1. Soak the rice in cold water for a couple of hours then rinse 3 times under running water. Bring a pan of water to the boil and sit a steamer on top. Add the rice and steam for 20 minutes, turning once half way through cooking.

2. Spear the shallot, garlic and chillies onto a skewer. Sear over a gas flame or under the grill (a charcoal barbecue would be ideal) until the skins are blackened all over. Remove the skin from the garlic and shallot, and the stalks from the chillies. Use a pestle and mortar to pound them to a rough paste.

3. Put the paa-dek in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and bring to the boil. Bring a pan with half a litre of water to the boil. When the paa-dek has boiled pour it into the larger pan, sieving out the lumps. Add the aubergines and simmer for 3 minutes.

4. Add the sea bass, skin side up, and poach gently for a couple of minutes, until cooked through. Remove the fish and set aside.

5. Remove the aubergines and put them in the mortar with the chilli paste. Pound everything together gently adding a little of the cooking liquid to loosen the paste. Finally add the fish and pound 2 more times, adding more of the cooking liquid. The result should be a loose mash. Serve with the sticky rice and a plate of steamed vegetables.

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