Sawatdee krub! Greetings!
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 ground pork (larb moo) but can vary. Minced beef, fish, duck, chicken or even liver or beef with a bit of blood.
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).
This recipe goes a bit “grandma style,” as in “a bit of” and “add some” are the measures because this really goes according to taste. But here’s a starting point:
1 lb ground pork
juice of two limes
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
cilantro and mint leaves
fish sauce (Shrimp brand is a favorite for us here on Amazon but should be cheaper and available at most Asian markets or even good general grocery stores)
2 tbsp of uncooked white rice
1/4-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Ground pork is marinated in a bit (1 tbsp) of lime juice for at least a half hour, and then tossed into a lightly oiled hot wok. (I add a bit of water to help it cook thoroughly as we don’t need to brown it.) Move the pork to a mixing bowl and add 1 tbsp fish sauce (start small and build up to taste), more (1 tbsp to start) lime juice, thinly sliced shallots, a wee bit of cilantro, and the crushed chili pepper.
Toast the rice in a dry frying pan until it gets a nice golden color. Careful, they get hot to handle. Let them cool and then run them through a spice grinder or a whirling blade coffee grinder as I do. It should end up almost a powder, with the largest pieces no bigger than sea salt crystals. Mix that into the bowl 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.
The salad is eaten lukewarm or even room temperature and functions as a main dish or one of many dishes in a group meal. It comes with a wedge of fresh cabbage, and 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. Krua Apsorn does a splendid version with added pieces of straw mushroom.