Some of you may have come here for a larb recipe (also known as laap) because you’ve been looking for a dish to take you back to your last vacation in Thailand or Laos. Or, some of you may have come here to find an answer to what Peter Parker and Aunt May were talking about in that Thai restaurant conversation (seriously, Reddit is such a scary place of misinformation). I’ve been ordering this dish for years, and it is such a satisfying-yet-light food thing to enjoy as either a starter or main course. I’m telling you – you need this dish in your life.
Larb is a general term for a well-seasoned meat salad that can be made with all sorts of meat, both raw and cooked. It is usually made with fish sauce, lime juice, chilis, and is chock full of herbs and aromatics, to taste. Against all of these bright and powerful ingredients, the “secret ingredient” that really rounds out the dish is the glutinous rice — both in toasted powder form tossed into the salad itself and also as a side accompaniment. The combination of all these flavours and textures is magical.
I’m back to using the Le Creuset Canada stainless steel line for this recipe (The risotto pot is pictured, but the stainless steel sauté pan or saucier would also be excellent vessels to use). Traditionally, this dish is made using a large street-food style wok, but as someone who lives in a downtown Toronto condo, I do not have the pantry space for such a thing, nor would I ever be able to fully clean it to a satisfactory standard. The stainless steel pots and pans from Le Creuset are such high quality, and incredibly easy to clean. This is particularly important when you’re making a dish like this one that involves different steps with different ingredients cooked in different ways to different levels of done-ness — all made in one pot.
Larb recipes are becoming more and more popular online. I have designed a version that balances out authenticity with ease and North American sensibilities of cooking. I’ve also provided options for you to substitute ingredients if necessary. However (and this is a big however), there is a huge danger of over-substitution here because there are not that many ingredients at all to work with. I would urge you to try to follow the ingredient list as closely as possible the first time you make this dish and change it up in the future after you establish a baseline. Otherwise, you risk losing the integrity of the dish, and might end up making something else entirely!
On a final note, it’s also a relatively healthy dish, especially when served with plenty of leaves! Hopefully, you find a way to incorporate this larb recipe into your regular rotation. And if you ever get tired of it, give the Pad Gra Prao, another pork dish from Thailand and Laos, a try as well. It is still the most popular post on the blog to date!
Larb (Laap) Moo
A surprisingly refreshing Southeast Asian meat salad.
- 1 lb ground pork can substitute ground chicken easily
- 1 tsp cooking oil peanut or canola would work well
- 1/2 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp white sugar to bring out the flavour
- 1-2 lime(s) at least one, but nice to have slices for garnish
- 1-2 shallot(s) Thai shallots are smaller than French or North American ones
- 1 bunch mint
- 1 bunch cilantro If you can find it, can also use culantro
- 2 bunches scallions a.k.a. green onions
- 1 bird's eye chili can also use chili powder
- 1 heart Romaine lettuce can use any other kind of lettuce
- 1/2 cup crushed peanuts or cashews optional
- 1/2 cup glutinous rice also known as sweet rice or Thai sweet rice
- 1 cup additional glutinous rice optional, for serving
- 1/2 cup coconut milk optional, to cook with glutinous rice
Pre-heat your stainless steel pan or pot to medium heat (no higher). Add your 1/2 cup of glutinous rice to the pan and toast and toss evenly until the colour turns warm yellow. This usually takes around 15 minutes. Set aside.
Add pork (or chicken) to the pan or pot with a tiny bit of cooking oil and stir fry until the meat is cooked fully through, and most of the juices have evaporated. Drain excess oil and juices if desired, and finish frying with ginger (this helps to reduce the "meat sweat" flavour). Important: make sure to turn the heat off when meat is fully cooked!
Pulverize your toasted rice with a spice grinder, food processor, or a mortar and pestle. The final size of the toasted rice should be small enough to not get stuck in your teeth, but not so fine that it loses its crunchy texture. Add this to the meat salad.
Loosely chop the herbs (scallions and cilantro), shallots and chilis. The mint can be pulled individually from their stems and leaves kept whole. Throw all of these items into the meat salad.
Finally, add fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice to the meat salad. Toss, taste, and adjust flavour if necessary. If using chili powder instead of fresh chilis, add at this stage.
Serve with Romaine lettuce leaves and your choice of crushed nuts if desired.
Serve also with glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk (use 1.5 cups liquid for every 1 cup of glutinous rice and cook as you would white rice) if desired.
Please note: This post was made in partnership with Le Creuset Canada, and in support of their stainless steel fall campaign.
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