A very easy larb recipe
When I was living in a small country village in North Thailand, I enjoyed some of the best Thai food I've ever had the pleasure of tasting.
I now have an expanded repertoire of tasty treats and a large percentage came from my Thai Mum, Dad, Aunties, Uncles and Grandma.
A great pedigree, so I do my best to present them to you as I was taught
This is their version of the classic larb recipe that we all know and love. It's outstanding in terms of flavour, texture and ability to make you want to keep eating.
Most ingredients are fresh from the garden or local market on the day of cooking.
Larb is a Thai salad from the Northeastern Isaan region and is responsible for many conversions to the "I love Thai food" community around the globe.
I've always spelled it "Larb" as that's how it's promoted to English speakers in Australia. It's also commonly transliterated that way in South Thailand and Bangkok where I have spent quite a bit of time.
As @isaanlife from twitter pointed out on my comments section yesterday, this is actually known at the source as 'laap' and not larb.
Isaan is the gigantic North East area of Thailand bordering Laos, and responsible for some of my favourite Thai dishes and some of the most memorable food in the country.
Som Tam is an Isaan classic, and my favourite Thai soup 'tom saap' is also from there.
Add grilled Isaan sausage, sticky rice and nam tok salad to the list along with ground roasted rice and toasted dry red chillies and you pretty much have my staple diet or culinary wish list.
Laap is actually not Thai at all, but an import act from Laos. A lot of Isaan cuisine shares origins or common features with Laos.
On my trip up the Mekong last year I saw lots of 'laap' on offer.
The cooked larb is the laap that makes most non-Thai's drool and stammer, so that's the one that follows.
There are a couple of types of larb, and the North Thai larb where Goy comes from is actually a raw larb, not the "classic" cooked larb that we Westerners have come to know and love.
I have written about this 'raw larb' here where it was made using 'pla sawai' fish, but it also gets made with beef, chicken or pork.
I'll do a more detailed post on that in the future. Just ask if you have any questions.
Today's post is about the 'usual' cooked larb which is popular all over Thailand and around the world. And it's so easy to make.
For the following recipe you can also use chicken or beef or seafood and just delete the pork skin if you like.
Chicken is probably the second most popular larb after pork
serves 2 with rice, or 4 with other dishes
300g Pork meat, lean (or 70 to 80% of the salad volume)
70g Pork skin (or 20 to 30% of the salad volume
1 dsp Toasted dry red chilli
1 tbsp Ground roasted rice (khao krua)
80g Red shallots or red onion (optional)
50-80g Mint leaves
40ml Thai fish sauce
2-3 Fresh limes
- Cut the pork skin into fine strips and simmer for a couple of minutes in water. It must be tender and cooked through, but not melted or sloppy
- Blanch the pork mince until JUST cooked in simmering water and drain. A sieve or strainer is good for this. Do not overcook or the salad will be 'dry'
- Toss cooked mince and cooked pork skin together in a steel, plastic or glass bowl. (No aluminium bowls)
- Season with fish sauce, and then squeeze in fresh lime juice. This must be squeezed from the freshly cut limes – not pre-squeezed or bottled stuff
- Taste to make sure there is a good balance of sour and salty. Normally lime juice to fish sauce ratio is 2:1
- Stir in toasted dry red chilli flakes and ground roasted rice. The rice should give it flavour and texture. The toasted dry red chilli provides the heat and spice.
- Toss freshly sliced red shallots or red onion through the salad (In many versions this is not added including the one pictured here.) Shallots are a common garnish however.
- Toss some fresh, clean mint leaves through, and then garnish liberally with fresh mint
- Serve with fresh greens. Tomato, cucumber, lettuce, green beans, raw cabbage, water spinach are all served with larb in Thailand
- The salad is great eaten with sticky rice or steamed jasmine rice. It is low fat and healthy. Omit pork skin for an even healthier version. This is so full of flavour, and the hot/sour/salty can be adjusted to your own taste preference, as is the beauty with most Thai food.
The pork skin strips gives a great textural contrast to the dish.
I was previously taught to cook the mince in a pot with fish sauce – not to boil it.
This blanching method is easier, faster and leads to a great tasting salad as the dressings are added later, keeping them 'fresher'
You can use fresh chilli, but the toasted dry red chilli is a taste sensation that loans it's own accent to the dish. (pictured below)
It's a major flavour component of the dish. Even though still 'nice' without it, the dish becomes a shadow of its true self.
The brand of fish sauce you use will affect the flavour.
Some are fishy, smelly, salty, intense, mellow etc. They vary as much as wine, olive oil, soy and cheese.
Good popular brands to use are Squid brand, Tiparos, Oyster brand. It's cheap, so try some, and stick with a brand that suits your taste. Also remember that it tastes a lot better than it smells, and is rarely eaten alone.
This should be the only larb recipe you'll ever need.
Ask me any questions in the comments section, and I'll do my best to get back to you promptly
Enjoy your larb!