Larb. What is it? Well in simplest terms, it is a Laos “minced meat” salad made with citrus and fish sauce. The meat is often marinated, then cooked, and topped with a fish sauce/citrus dressing. There are as many variations as there are alternate names to this dish (‘laab’, ‘larp’, or ‘laap’ to name a few). For those of you that know, it is a lot. Bottom line though, is that it is simple, quick, and delicious meal with bold flavours.
Does the tem ‘minced meat’ scare anyone else?? I don’t know what happened to me as a child, but I fear I was given some mincemeat dessert that didn’t quite match my palate at the time and I was inevitably forced to eat it. Even though ‘minced meat’ and ‘mincemeat’ are two completely different things, saying ‘minced meat’ still sends a shudder down my spine. It’s the phonetical pronunciation that still haunts me today. Anyway, ‘minced meat’ is simply nothing more than finely chopped or ground meat. Nothing harmful there. Unless you are one of my Vegan friends, then I sincerely apologize.
I was first introduced to this dish in one of my favourite Thai Restaurants in Toronto. I know, you’re thinking that I just explained the dish is from Laos, but I had it in a Thai restaurant. What kind of restaurants do we have here in the big smoke??? Well you’re partially right. Because of the large influence across the border between Thailand and Laos, this dish has definite roots in Northern Thailand. Can you say it is a Thai dish? Yes, I think there are plenty of Thai variations on the dish that will allow them to claim at least partial ownership. And, btw, we have amazing restaurants here in Toronto. Send me an email for a list of some of my recommendations for some great, non-touristy spots.
So, the dish I decided to prepare for you (and me) today is made with pork, but you can use almost any protein for this dish. There are recipes for pork, chicken, turkey, beef, and duck. Keep following me and I will eventually make them all. Or you can google them and get it out of the way now. But following me is more fun, right?!?
Anyway, the protein of the dish is often marinated in salt and citrus for a few minutes. I used lime juice here. This dish is often served spicy, so this simple marinade also includes things like Thai chilies. I can’t have that much spice so I added the limited heat in another way. For those of you that can handle it, add a couple of Thai chilies, chopped jalapeño, or chili of your choice into the marinade and mix with the ground pork. I know there some heat seekers out there, but please try not to drown out the other flavours of the dish. They deserve some of the spotlight too!
Aside from the dressing, the dish is ready to put on the stove and cook. Yeah, simple right? It’s at this point I added some sliced shishito peppers. You can use simple sweet if you like. The beauty of the shishito is that like 1 in 20 is hot so I feel relatively safe adding 3 sliced up. It’s a bit of Russian Roulette, but I’ve been fine thus far.
This dish is typically served on some form of greenery. I use boston lettuce simply because I like it. It’s flat, delicate, and has a little more flavour than iceberg. I also like to add a little flavour to the lettuce by “marinating” it in a mixture of sweet and sour. I use apple cider vinegar and mirin (sweet rice cooking wine). If you don’t have mirin, just add a ¼ tsp of sugar (coconut sugar) to a 1 tbsp of water and mix that with the apple cider vinegar. Just toss the lettuce gently in this mixture to coat, and let sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.
The traditional dish is often topped or garnished with ground roasted rice. Because this is a paleo dish, we won’t use that. So what works as a great substitute? Well roasted rice has a slight nutty flavour, so why not look to the Paleo friendly nuts??? That’s it right there. Roasted chopped almonds. In my opinion it rounds out this dish perfectly. The rest of the garnish is simply chopped mint, basil, and cilantro.
Plate the meat on the lettuce, garnish with the herbs and almonds, and you are ready to eat. Traditionally this is served with a papaya salad and some rice, but I like to eat it on its own. Feel free to experiment with it as a side or a main. Share and tag me if you do please!Print
Paleo Pork Larb (Laap)
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 3 Servings
- Cuisine: Laos
- 800-1000g ground pork
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp Lime juice
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 3 shishito peppers sliced thinly
- 1 head Boston lettuce cut lengthwise and marinated in
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp Lime juice
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp chopped mint
- 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp chopped Thai basil
- If you don’t have roasted chopped almonds, you can chop coarsely and place in a 350F oven until golden and fragrant.
- Mix 1 tsp of salt, 2 tbsp of lime juice and the 1 tsp chili powder into the raw ground pork and let it marinate for 15-20 mins
- Slice the Boston lettuce leaves in half lengthwise and place in a bowl.
- Whisk together 1tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 tbsp mirin (or tbsp. water with ¼ tsp sugar) and pour over the boston lettuce leaves.
- Toss lightly to coat and rest while prepping the other ingredients.
- Chop the herbs and set aside.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.
- Heat a skillet on the stove on med-high heat.
- Quickly sauté the sliced shishitos and set aside.
- When the pork has marinated long enough, add to the skillet and fry while breaking apart the meat with a flat spatula. You should have very small grains of pork the cook is done.
- I drain the pork quickly at this point as there is a fair bit of liquid. You can continue frying if you like but you will start to dry out the pork. Cook it as you like it though.
- Add the shishito peppers back in and mix thoroughly with the pork.
- Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the stove.
- Stir the dressing into the pork.
- Arrange the Boston lettuce on a plate as a base.
- Put laarb on top.
- Sprinkle with toasted almonds.
- Sprinkle with chopped herbs.
- Squeeze a little lime juice on top if desired.
- Open a Thai beer (or any beer) and toast yourself for having dinner ready in under 45 mins.