Asian! I have been going nuts on the curries lately so this healthy Laotian dish is a nice departure from all that fattening coconut milk.
Typically you’ll find Larb at Thai joints but it is authentically Laotian. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Laotian restaurant (or even seen one) but part of what is now Thailand was once Laos so lets just say this is a super popular dish in both Laos and Thailand. It’s made with pretty much any ground meat – beef, pork, chicken, duck, and even fish. The sauce is lime juice and fish sauce at a minimum and typically it has mint (the most popular version) cilantro and/or Thai basil. I was doing a bit of research and it seems that technically larb includes meat, toasted broken rice, and some sort of sauce… there is even one with raw meat, blood, bile and spice! Sounds a bit gross, but I’ll try anything with an open mind!
This larb excludes the rice. At the end of cooking if I feel there is too much liquid I will add panko bread crumbs so it soaks it up. I like to have this in butter lettuce or Napa (Chinese) cabbage cups (pictured). It’s also really nice over rice.
Yield: 2 large or 4 small servings
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or honey)
2 tablespoons oil
1 red onion, small dice
2-4 thai chilies, depending on taste, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, the outer layers removed and the meaty stalk minced
1 pound ground meat (I use everything, but this time it was pork)
1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup mint, finely chopped (or cilantro or Thai basil)
salt to taste
leaves of Napa Cabbage or a head of butter lettuce, to use the leaves as bowls/cups
- Combine lime juice, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside, this is the dressing that will go in at the end.
- Heat the oil over medium and add the onion, chilies and lemongrass. Saute until soft and then add the ground meat, pepper flakes, black pepper and a sprinkle of salt.
- Stir the mixture to cook the meat. Sometimes I use a potato masher to make sure none of the meat sticks together because I like the meat uniform in size. (OCD much?)
- Once the meat is cooked through add the dressing and stir. Let it go for a few minutes and if there’s some liquid in the bottom add 1/4 cup of panko break crumbs to absorb…. or don’t, I just don’t like juice in the bottom.
- At the very end stir in your herb of choice. I really like all three – but mint is most authentic.
- Taste to make sure the salt level is to your liking.
- Serve over rice or in lettuce cups. Abroad they serve it room temp but I simply cannot wait for it to cool off.
I love the lettuce cups because it feels so healthy. Never mind that I would probably follow it up with a big bowl of ice cream.