"Larb" or "Laab / Laap" is the Thai term used to describe a fresh and spicy, protein-based salad. It is a very popular dish in both northeast and northern Thailand, and can be found on sale throughout the country, in both roadside stalls and high-end restaurants. It is classically made with beef, pork, duck or chicken, but fish, mushroom and other varieties also exist. In short, it is a very easy and flexible recipe, and as such is an excellent recipe to add to your repertoire of Thai dishes.
Using water rather than oil to cook the protein ensures a clean and healthy dish, but sometimes oil will be used (especially when preparing a more festive duck version.)
The freshness of your Thai herbs is essential. Whilst this dish is based upon a protein, this spicy Thai pork explosion is normally referred to as a salad, reflecting the importance of the fresh leaves and herbs used to concoct it.
Gecko Villa's recipe below is for a classic
northeastern Thai pork salad. In the north of Thailand,
the dish is quite different and uses fried garlic,
lemongrass, long pepper and a lemony prickly ash to
flavor the dish.
- 1 tbs of roasted rice (see below.)
- 300 grams minced pork (or alternatively chicken or beef mince)
- 1 tbs of chili flakes
- 1 tsp of sugar
- ½ tbs fish sauce
- 1 – 2 limes, juiced
- 4 small shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 leaves of saw coriander, coarsely chopped (alternatively substitute a few sprigs of fresh coriander)
- 3 – 5 spring onions, sliced
- 20 fresh mint leaves (do not try substituting dried mint: freshness is key.)
How to make the Thai toasted rice powder
First, make the toasted sticky rice ("khao kua"). Store-bought powders do not have the crunch, smokiness and freshness of the freshly made version. Do this by dry roasting /toasting the uncooked Thai sticky rice grains over medium heat in a dry frying pan. Stir or toss the pan very frequently, until each grain has toasted to a dark gold colour and gives off a smoky aroma. Pour the grains onto a plate an allow to cool, and then, using a pestle and mortar, pound the rice until it turns into a coarse powder. If you use a food processor instead, pulse gently, as you are seeking a roughly textured sprinkle rather than a fine powder.
Putting the Larp together
Heat a few tablespoons of water in a wok and add the minced pork (or beef or chicken). Stir over heat until fully cooked, then remove from the heat.
Now, to the cooked mince, add a generous tablespoon of toasted rice powder, the chili flakes, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice (add these to taste - the authentic version should be salty, spicy and quite tangy.)
Stir, then add the shallots, green onions, saw coriander and mint leaves. Stir again. Taste and add more fish sauce, lime or chili if you like.
Serve on a dish with raw cabbage leaves, lengths of raw snake beans, cucumber slices, and additional mint and saw coriander leaves. Alternatively, for a more "restaurant style" presentation, spoon quantities of the mixture into iceberg lettuce leaf cups.
Deep-fried or grilled fresh chilies can also be used as a garnish by those who like their dishes hot. This dish is generally accompanied by sticky rice.