Mar 25, 2020

Issan-Style Pork Larb

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
This version 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.

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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.

This recipe is based on a Southeast Asian recipe that is also referred to as “laap” or “laab”, filled with herbs, fish sauce and shallots. It originated in Laos but has become a beloved Thai dish as well. The meat is traditionally finely chopped using a cleaver, but it takes a long time to get the pieces that small, so I opt to use ground pork purchased from the meat counter instead.

Issan-Style Pork Larb

All about Larb

There are many different ways to prepare larb. At its root, larb refers to meat that is chopped and cooked combined with the herbs and 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. Larb is traditionally served accompanied by 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 take on this pork larb recipe the ground pork can be substituted with ground chicken or turkey.

Ingredients in Pork Larb

Ground pork 

Ground pork typically comes from minced pork shoulder meat and is incredibly versatile. It can be swapped for another lean ground meat like turkey or chicken in this recipe.

Fish sauce

I love the funky umami flavor fish sauce adds to any dish. It’s a great way to enhance the flavor of curries or even chicken wings. The flavor comes from a process of fermenting fish over a long period of time.

Lime juice

Lime juice works well with the fish sauce to balance the flavors in this dish.

Thai birdseye chilies

Bird’s eye chilies or Thai chilies are small, pointy chili peppers that pack a punch. They add an intense heat with fruity flavor to dishes rating between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville units. Since they can sometimes be difficult to find I usually buy a large bag at them at my local Asian market and store them in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag. It’s actually even easier to cut them when they are frozen.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass adds a bright, lemony flavor to dishes. Fresh lemongrass is best for this recipe since it has a more complex flavor. Pre-packaged paste or dried lemongrass can be substituted if needed. Only the bottom yellow part of the lemongrass stalk is used in cooking, the top part is typically much too tough.

Shallot

Shallots are both added to the larb raw, thinly sliced as well as fried until crispy for a savory crunch over the finished dish.

Green onion

In this recipe I use both the white, more pungent bottom parts of the stalk as well as the more mild green tops.

Mint leaves

Mint is used as a contrast to the green onion, cilantro and lemongrass to create a vibrant flavor profile in this recipe.

Cilantro

In the United States, cilantro refers to the stalk and leaves of the plant while coriander refers to the dried seeds. In many other cultures the terms are used interchangeably. This herb is one of my favorites and it adds a bright, lemony flavor.

Thai Pork Larb-17.jpg

How to make Larb

Step 1

Cook the pork in a skillet until cooked through. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Step 2

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, Thai chilies and lemongrass.

Step 3

Pour over the pork mixture and toss together with the shallots, green onion, mint and cilantro.

Step 4

Make the fried shallots.

Step 5

Top the larb with the shallots and serve with vegetables.

Thai Pork Larb-42.jpg

Tips for this recipe

  • To reheat leftover larb I recommend reheating in the microwave so the meat is warmed but not extremely hot. I then stir in some more herbs to freshen up and liven the recipe.
  • I often serve larb over rice with some sliced cucumber for an easy and fresh dinner that comes together in under 30 minutes.
  • Substitute the ground pork for another meat like ground turkey or ground chicken.
  • To make this recipe even faster leave out the crispy shallots on top of the larb.
  • Serve the larb in butter lettuce cups for an easy twist on the appetizer.

 

issan-style Thai Pork Larb

Issan-Style Pork Larb

issan style ground pork larb minced pork with herbs arranged on a white platter with cucumber, cabbage and beans
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entrée.

Ingredients:

For the larb:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Thai birdseye chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced (tender parts only)
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped mint leaves
  • ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro

For the crispy shallots:

  • Vegetable oil as needed, for frying
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

For serving:

  • 1 medium English cucumber, sliced on the bias
  • 6 ounces green beans
  • ¼ head cabbage, leaves separated
  • 1 small head butter lettuce, leaves separated

Instructions:

For the larb:

  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and heat through. Add the pork, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Cook until the pork is cooked through and no longer pink but not browned and season with salt, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pork to a medium mixing bowl, draining as much of the cooking liquid as possible.
  • In a small mixing bowl whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, Thai chilies and lemongrass then pour over the pork mixture and toss together with the shallots, green onion, mint and cilantro.

For the crispy shallots:

  • Add enough oil to a 10” cast iron skillet ½” of the way up with the oil. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350ºF . Add the shallots and fry, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes, lowering the heat if they brown too quickly. Use tongs to remove the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate and cool for 5 minutes.

For serving:

  • Serve warm or at room temperature with the sliced vegetables for serving.

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  1. Hi! I have a question about one of the ingredients. I can’t for the life of me find fresh thai chilies, but I have dried/ground thai chilies. How can I substitute without setting me face on fire with too much chili?