Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lao Minced Pork Salad with Fish Sauce, Lime Juice, Chiles, Mint & Cilantro (Larb/Laap Mu)

Although you often see Larb/Laap on Thai menus, this meat salad is actually Lao in origin and considered the unofficial national dish of Laos. Needless to say, there are a number of individual, local, and regional variations of this dish. The protein used ranges from minced pork to minced beef, chicken, duck, offal, a combination thereof, or even be completely vegetarian. This is my version for pork larb (ground turkey, not the super lean kind, is a great substitute). The key seasonings are fish sauce, lime juice, roasted rice powder, a little palm or brown sugar, minced shallots or red onion, scallions, chiles, mint and cilantro. Basil is not typically added. This refreshingly light, deliciously herbaceous, spicy (adjusted according to your own taste), sweet-sour-salty dish is typically wrapped in lettuce leaves or served with sticky rice on the side. 

2 lbs. ground pork or ground turkey (not the super lean kind, which can be dry & flavorless when cooked)
2 tsp. vegetable oil

1/2 cup minced shallots or red onion
3 tbsp. fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. brown sugar or palm sugar
2 small Fresno or jalapeño chiles*, seeded and sliced
2 large scallions, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro (leaves only), chopped
1 tbsp. roasted rice powder (Khao Khua), optional

1 English or hothouse cucumber, sliced
Butter or iceberg lettuce leaves
Lime wedges

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the ground pork and saute until just cooked through.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and let rest for a couple minutes. Stir in the shallots, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chiles. 

3. Stir in the scallions, mint, cilantro and roasted rice powder, if using. 

4. Plate the Larb and serve with cucumber slices, butter or iceberg lettuce leaves,  or sticky rice, and lime wedges on the side. 

 Cilantro, shallots, mint, and scallions.

 Lime juice and sliced Fresno chiles.

 Sliced hothouse cucumbers.

 Fish sauce and brown sugar.

 If you can't find ground pork (not the extra lean kind), ground turkey is a good substitute.

 Heat oil in a skillet and cook the ground pork until just cooked through.

 Remove the pan from the heat and let rest 5 minutes; add the fish sauce, lime juice, and brown sugar.

 Stir in the chopped shallots and chiles.

 Add the scallions, cilantro, mint and roasted rice powder.
 Plate and serve with lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, and lime wedges on the side. To eat, place a scoop of the pork larb on a lettuce leaf, add a couple slices of cucumber on top, squeeze a bit of lime juice over, wrap it up like a spring roll, and enjoy! 
Alternatively, you can serve the larb with sticky rice. 

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