I learned how to make “larb” on my honeymoon in Chang Mai, Northern Thailand. My husband, Aaron, and I took a cooking class together which was one of the highlights of my trip and resulted in this recipe for a minced meat salad.
It is based on a Southeast Asian recipe that is also referred to as “laap” or “laab” and is filled with herbs, fish sauce and shallots. It originated in Laos but has become a beloved Thai dish as well.
While the meat is traditionally finely chopped using a cleaver, it takes a long time to get the pieces that small, so I opt to use already ground pork purchased from the meat counter instead.
There are many different ways to prepare larb. At its root it refers to meat that is chopped and cooked before seasoning. It can range anywhere from an intense Northern style larb meuang with naam prik, to versions made with offal (entrails and internal organs) which most American versions tend to ignore, preferring to a lighter, easy to prepare Issan-style larb like this one.
With its fresh, chopped herbs, bright and funky fish sauce and spicy Thai chilies this tangy dish hits all of my favorite flavor notes. It’s incredibly flavorful yet easy to make. It’s typically served with cabbage, long beans, and sliced cucumber as vehicles for the dish though I often eat it over rice for as an easy dinner. Based on accessibility I substitute green beans for the long beans and add a head of butter lettuce because I like scooping it into little leaf “cups”. For a lighter recipe the ground pork can be substituted with ground chicken or turkey.
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