This dish from Northern Thailand as well as Laos is one of my favorites to make as well as to eat, and its easy, easy, easy! There’s a little heavy lifting upfront in the form of some chopping (really as rough as you’d like, and then you’re pretty much home free.
Larb is technically a salad, but it’s about equal parts meat to veggies and the veggies are mostly just fresh herbs, which make this dish exceptional in the summer when you want bright and exciting flavors. I like the dish spicy like I think its meant to be, but it’s easy to dial-up or down by omitting or adding Thai bird chilies or whatever chilies you have lying around. That’s another beauty of the dish, you don’t have to follow the ingredient list to the “T”, use whatever herbs you have on hand (just make sure there are a lot of them) and it’ll still be the best salad you’ve ever had. Eat it outside (with an ocean view preferably), on a hot day, with a cold beer and that’s about as good as life gets!
You’ll often find this dish served with lettuce cups, rice and various other vegetable accouterments (eg. sliced cucumbers, carrots, radish, fried shallots) which is a great way to go, but if you just spoon the salad on top of a bowl of rice, I don’t think you’ll hear anyone complaining.
Laap can be eaten hot, cold or at room temperature so you can make it ahead of time, there is almost no measuring of ingredients to deal with, and I’ve found that it easily impresses the masses, so stop making excuses and go make it.
*feel free to substitute the pork with any ground meat (beef, lamb, chicken) or firm tofu.
*The dish comes together much easier if you divide your mise en place into two bowls as you are doing your knife-work:
- Bowl 1: ginger, garlic, scallion whites, half onion.
- Bowl 2: scallion greens, half onion, chilies, cilantro, basil, mint.
*you should be able to find toasted rice powder at your local Asian market, and this adds an extra dimension to the dish that is quite nice. However, if you can’t, or just don’t want to make an extra trip out, you can leave it out and you will most likely not miss it. Alternatively, you can simply toast dry, uncooked rice in a dry pan until it is a nice light brown and very fragrant, let that cool then blend into a powder. Or if you have some rice flour lying around, toast that up in a dry pan.
- 1 T Oil, high heat (peanut, grapeseed, safflower, etc.)
- 1 # Ground pork
- 2″ Ginger, minced
- 3 ea Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 bunch Scallion, sliced (whites and greens divided)
- 1 ea Onion, small diced (divided)
- 3 ea Thai Bird chile, minced (these bring the heat! use more or less)
- 1 bunch Cilantro, rough chopped (stems and all)
- 1 bunch Thai Basil, stems removed rough chopped
- 1/2 bunch Mint, stems removed rough chopped
- 2 T Toasted rice powder
- 2 ea Limes
- TT Fish Sauce
- In a large cast-iron pan heat oil over medium heat.
- When oil begins to shimmer, add ground pork and cook (continuously breaking into small pieces) until it begins to brown (about 10minutes).
- Add (bowl 1) the ginger, garlic, scallion whites, and half of the onion and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes. By now you should have some nice brown bits of ginger, garlic and pork and the mixture is likely starting to stick to your pan.
- Deglaze your pan with a few ounces of water to get any brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Turn off the burner and add (bowl 2) chilies, all of the chopped herbs, scallion greens, half onion, toasted rice powder and lime juice and mix well.
- Season with fish sauce, taste and adjust with more lime juice and fish sauce or salt.