I've never been to Laos and I never had Larb until I made this dish. When I saw this recipe amongst others I knew that a plate of Larb was in our future. I love Thai food, and pretty much all Asian food that I've tried, so I knew I would enjoy the flavors of this Lao dish. From my brief research, it seems like this is the national dish of Laos and each region has variations on the herbs and accompaniments. Beef is the traditional meat, but you could also make this with ground turkey, chicken, or even pork if you prefer.
I liked this meal because it was fun to eat. I served it with a side of Jasmine rice, sliced cucumbers, lettuce leaves, lime wedges, and chili-garlic sauce. You can either eat it on the rice with the vegetables alongside, or you can wrap everything in a lettuce leaf. Other vegetables can be served as well such as green beans or bean sprouts. My adapted recipe is below. This recipe will serve about three people, but feel free to double or triple for your next dinner party. Guests will like this fun and unique dish.
Larb (Lao beef salad)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks lemongrass (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 shallots, minced and separated
5 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1-2 Thai bird, or other hot chiles, minced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 lb ground beef
juice of two limes
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons toasted rice powder*
about 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
about 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
Jasmine or sticky rice, cooked to package directions
Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the lemongrass, 1 shallot, scallion whites, and chiles. Cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the beef and break apart with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the beef is cooked through. Then add the lime juice and fish sauce. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining shallot, scallion greens, toasted rice powder, cilantro, and mint.
Serve immediately with the accompaniments of your choice.
*This is available in some Asian markets; however, it is simple to make at home. Simply toast a couple tablespoons of Jasmine or sticky rice in a dry skillet, stirring often, until golden brown. Then crush using a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a heavy skillet until it becomes a powder. Don't skip this as it adds a lovely nutty flavor to the dish.
What was I cooking one year ago?: watermelon-cucumber-mint agua fresca
Two years ago?: stuffed clams (yum!)