Larb

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published about 3 hours ago

Larb is a meat salad consisting of ground meat, herbs, chilies, fish sauce, lime juice, and toasted ground rice

Credit: Perry Santanachote

Larb (or laab or laap) is a savory meat-based salad that hails from Laos and the Isaan region of northeast Thailand. Traditionally, this dish features a variety of pork offal, such as liver and cracklings, minced with a generous amount of herbs — usually whatever is growing in the nearby bushes. In the United States, ground chicken, cilantro, and mint make for a fine larb that’s easy enough to whip up for a quick weeknight dinner.

The heaviest lift is toasting the rice powder, which is an essential ingredient in larb. It adds texture and body to the dish and a nutty aroma that balances salty and sour dishes well. Rice powder is traditionally made from sticky rice, but jasmine rice also works in a pinch. 

What Kind of Chicken to Use in Larb

Ask your butcher to single-grind your chicken using a large die for large chunks, which will give your larb texture instead of an overly minced meatball consistency. Or mince your own meat at home with a cleaver. Also, feel free to substitute any meat — duck, pork, turkey, beef, lamb — or even tofu for the chicken in this dish.

What Does Larb Taste Like?

Larb has a lot of umami flavor, as the meat is front and center, but it’s also quite salty and sour from funky fish sauce and fresh lime juice. There is an abundance of fresh herbs for brightness and to offset the meatiness. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, feel free to substitute basil, chives, scallions, or any Asian herb. 

Credit: Perry Santanachote

Larb should be served with the following:

  • Wedges of crisp cabbage to eat like lettuce wraps
  • Raw or blanched vegetables, such as green beans or cauliflower
  • Steamed sticky rice to sop up the larb juices

The secret trick to making this hearty, meat-based salad is toasting the rice powder.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon

    uncooked Thai sticky or sweet rice

  • 1/4 cup

    water

  • 1 pound

    ground chicken

  • 1

    large shallot

  • 2

    medium limes

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons

    fish sauce

  • 2 teaspoons

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 small bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • 1 small bunch

    fresh mint

  • 1/2 medium head

    green cabbage

  • Steamed Thai sticky or sweet rice, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place 1 tablespoon uncooked Thai sticky rice in a small skillet over medium-low heat. After 3 to 4 minutes, the rice will start to brown. Shake the pan every 30 seconds until the rice is evenly dark brown and smells nutty, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the rice to a plate.

  2. Bring 1/4 cup water to boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 pound ground chicken and break up the meat with a wooden spoon or flat spatula until cooked through but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken and pan juices to a large bowl.

  3. Slice 1 large shallot lengthwise into thin matchsticks. Add the shallots to the bowl. Squeeze the juice from 2 medium limes until you get 3 tablespoons, and add it to the bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce and 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, and toss to combine.

  4. Prepare the following, adding each to the chicken mixture as you complete it: Grind the toasted rice in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to a medium-fine powder (like coarse cornmeal). Pick and finely chop the leaves of 1 small bunch fresh cilantro until you have 1/2 cup. Pick and finely chop the leaves from 1 small bunch fresh mint until you have 1/4 cup.

  5. Stir to combine. Cut 1/2 medium head green cabbage into 4 wedges. Serve the larb immediately with the cabbage and steamed sticky rice on the side.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Prepare the rice powder up to 1 day ahead and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Toasted rice powder won’t go bad, but the aroma dissipates, so you want to use it quickly and make more as needed, not in batches.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or enjoy the larb cold.

Perry Santanachote

Contributor

Perry is a food writer, photographer, and recipe developer based in New York City. She cooks every day, and somehow eats even more often. Her recipes have been published in Eating Well, Fine Cooking, Food & Wine, The Kitchn, Thrillist, and Tone It Up. Perry grew up in Denver, Colorado and was raised by two grandmothers who taught her the importance of cooking with all five senses and never adhering to a diet with a name. She has a degree in anthropology and a slightly more practical master’s degree in journalism.

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