Thai Food Favorites: Laab

laab-moo

Another one of my favorite dishes from Thailand which I find pretty easy to repeat at home is larb (sometimes transliterated from Thai as laab) Sometimes referred to as a cold meat salad (which sounds less appetizing to me for some reason), larb is a dish from northeastern Thailand, a region known as Isaan. Call it what you may, but I call it sawatdeelicious*.

(*I don’t really call it that; just being cute.)

The meat ingredient is commonly pork (larb moo) but can vary. Minced fish, duck, chicken or even liver or beef with a bit of blood.

mushroom-larb

I’ve had a mushroom larb at Krua Apsorn, a superb family restaurant in Bangkok. But in the end, most versions are likely laab moo (pork).

Ground pork is marinated a bit in lime juice and then tossed into a hot wok. Move that to a mixing bowl and add fish sauce, more lime juice, thinly sliced shallots, a wee bit of cilantro, and crushed chili pepper. The ingredient that gives it a twist that leaves you wondering is toasted uncooked rice grains ground into almost a powder. Mix that in and sprinkle some on each serving. Some recipes add a bit of fresh mint at the end as well. The combination of sour lime, salty fish sauce, and spicy pepper give laab its zing but that toasted rice makes a nice difference.

A bit of homemade larb moo with ingredients found in your typical grocery store.
A bit of homemade larb moo with ingredients found in your typical grocery store.

Eat it as a main dish or one of many dishes in a group meal as the Thai are wont to do. It comes with a wedge of fresh cabbage, some Thai basil, or maybe raw green beans to crunch on as you endure the spices. Order it with another Isaan dish: som tam (spicy green papaya salad) and sticky rice.

If you are in Bangkok, a good place to get this little combo is down on Soi Convent near Silom Road at Hai Som Tam. We prefer a place in Sukhumvit Soi 22 just past a school on the right — Sai Nam Peung School — when you are walking south (away from Sukhumvit Road). There’s no name, but you can recognize it from the sidewalk grill with chicken and fish on it (also good stuff; bring friends).

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