Ah yes, the pleasures of the Thai Yum. When it turns summer and disgustingly hot, and you feel like your energy has been sapped from the oppressive weather, spicy and tangy Asian salads can be a refreshing and satisfying boost — and for the most part, they’re pretty healthy too.
Larb is one of my favorite Thai dishes. Chances are, if I am going to a Thai restaurant for the first time and they have Larb on the menu, its what I am going to be ordering — it’s one of those “benchmark” dishes because its so simple to make. Anyone can make a good Larb at home, because it doesn’t require difficult to obtain ingredients (fish sauce is easy to get these days) or technical skills to prepare. Larb was a huge subject of interest back when I was still involved on eGullet — it was one of those huge monster threads that kept on going, and going. The general rule of thumb is that If it’s a protein, you can larb it. I have to give fellow blogger tommyeats the credit for starting it, it was inspired genius.
Larb, Laab, Larp… doesn’t matter what you call it, let’s eat it! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
For the basic recipe, I used the one from Thai Table, but adapted it to increase vegetable content and to lower fat. Here’s our version:
THAI LARB SALAD
1 Tbs Toasted Rice Powder
1 Shallot or small Red Onion, thinly sliced
3 Limes, Juiced
12 oz ground turkey or ground chicken breast
1/2 Tbs dried ground chili or 1 Tbs Sriracha Sauce
1-2 Fresh Asian Chiles, preferable Red, such as Thai Bird or Long Chinese Hot (to taste)
3 Tbs Thai Fish Sauce. You can use a Vietnamese fish sauce but it will have a slightly different flavor profile
1/2 tsp freshly ground White Pepper
1 Handful of Cilantro leaves (most of stems removed)
1 Handful of Mint leaves (all stems removed)
1 Handful of Asian Basil leaves (stems removed, tear large leaves) If you don’t have Asian Basil, use Italian, but it won’t have that licorice bite (if you have Tarragon, you can add some of that)
4 cups Napa Cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup Red Cabbage, thinly sliced
1 bunch of Scallions, Whites and Greens sliced and separated
Optional: Sliced Radishes (use the radish greens as well torn up), Shredded Carrots, Chopped Culantro (Recao, Sawtooth Herb), Sliced Cucumber, Red Pepper julienne, celery, mushrooms
Pour 1/3 of the lime juice on the raw ground meat. Mix well and let it marinade for just a couple of minutes until you are ready to cook it.
Heat up a pan on high until it is very hot. Add two tablespoons of water and then immediately add your marinated meat and stir. Toss in chopped Scallion whites and 1/2 of your sliced fresh chiles. Keep stirring until the meat is well done, but not browned. Reserve in a separate bowl.
Get out your largest salad bowl. Mix together the fish sauce, remaining lime juice, ground chili pepper or chili sauce, 1/2 of toasted rice powder, remaining fresh sliced chilies and ground white pepper. Stir well and taste for salt and sour. Add herbs and vegetables to the salad bowl and toss well.
Red Chiles with Toasted Rice Powder
Toss up the salad with cooked ground meat mixture. Mix well and taste. It should be a little bit hot, and you should be able to taste tartness from the lime juice and the salty-fishiness of the fish sauce. If you need to add more fish sauce or lime juice, don’t be afraid. Getting the flavor balance right is a trial and error process. Sprinkle on the remaining toasted rice powder and serve.