Recipe: Northern Thai Laab / Larb (Ground Pork Salad)
I first had Larb several years ago at a Thai restaurant in Portland, and instantly fell in love with it. This past Christmas, I found a recipe in Saveur magazine for Laab that caught my eye. Turns out Larb and Laab are the same thing; just different translations of the same name, along with laap, lahb, and larp. However you spell it or choose to say it, this stuff is delicious.
But here’s the catch…. it is made a little bit differently all over Thailand, with regional variances and family recipe preferential differences. The basics of most Larb/Laab are ground meat (usually beef, chicken, or pork), ground toasted rice, chilies, fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and mint. I’ve eaten this common version in just about every Thai restaurant I’ve stepped foot in, and it’s always delicious.
However, Northern Thailand gets a little crazy with their Larb/Laab. They add all sorts of different aromatic spices to the mix, including: star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, coriander, and more. They often skip the lime juice too. Both Southern Larb/Laab and Northern Larb/Laab are amazing served with jasmine rice, sticky rice (the traditional accompaniment), fresh vegetables, or as the filling for lettuce wraps. You can’t go wrong with Larb/Laab.
I don’t usually do this on The Bald Gourmet, but I found Saveur’s recipe so delicious that I felt the need to share it with all of my readers. This also came from the encouragement of numerous requests from those who were at the Christmas party I catered this past winter where I served this recipe to 250 people. So, here is Saveur’s recipe, with a couple of slight modifications of my own (reduced the amount of oil, and cut the chili heat in half):
Recipe for Laab (Northern Thai Ground Pork Salad)
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 tablespoons mashed garlic
- 4 red Thai chilies, stemmed and minced
- 10 oz. ground pork
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons minced mint, plus more to garnish
- 1 tablespoon minced scallions, plus more to garnish
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro, plus more to garnish
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- Thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass (2-3 tablespoons), shallots (two), cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes to garnish (optional)
How to Make Laab
Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add garlic and chilies, and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add pork, chili flakes, five-spice, nutmeg, salt, pepper, coriander, and cardamom, and cook, stirring, until pork is browned, about 2 minutes.
Stir in mint, scallions, cilantro, and fish sauce, and cook until pork is done, about 4 minutes.
Transfer to a large serving bowl, and top with scallions, cilantro, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, shallots, more mint, more cilantro, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Serve at room temperature with sticky rice, raw vegetables, and/or lettuce for lettuce wraps.
Recipe by Saveur Magazine, modified by The Bald Gourmet
The Bald Gourmet shares his favorite recipe for Northern Thai Laab, printed by Saveur magazine.
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