Pork LarbAdd a Comment / December 21, 2014
Larb is a simple Thai salad with extreme flavors: aromatic Kaffir lime leaves, sour lime juice, spicy chiles, salty fish sauce, and a handful of toasted rice for a little pleasing grittiness; plenty of fresh mint and cilantro tossed at the end completes the sensory experience.
As folks continue to seek out an authentic Thai food experience, larb is having its day and appearing more and more on restaurant menus. Maybe there is a market for my “I LOVE LARB” T-shirts after all.
Larb can be served either warm or at room temperature; it can be made up to an hour or so ahead of serving. It can be made with ground chicken or lamb or leftover shredded meat or fish, even tofu or bamboo shoots. Serve over tender cabbage or lettuce leaves as a starter or over a grain or noodle (sticky rice is traditional, but I prefer rice noodles) as an entrée. I like to double up the recipe so I’ll have enough for breakfast or lunch the following day. My special cook’s tip is to double the spice mixture; I sprinkle it on everything from scrambled eggs to avocado.
- Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a starter
- 12 ounces (340 g) ground pork
- 2 tablespoons uncooked white rice
- 2 to 5 dried red chiles, to enjoyment level
- 5 Kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces
- ½ medium red onion, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons), or to taste
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or Thai basil
- Crisp lettuce leaves or grain or noodle of your choice for serving
- Thinly sliced fresh red or green chiles (optional)
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chiles and rice and toast until the rice is lightly colored and the chiles darken a shade, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the chiles and rice to a spice grinder to cool.
- Add the pork to the skillet and cook until it is no longer pink and is browned in places, about 15 minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon as you cook it. Transfer to a serving bowl to cool until warm or room temperature, stirring it a few times to dispel the heat.
- Add the lime leaves to the spice grinder and grind to a coarse powder. Let the powder settle for a minute or two before opening the lid (to avoid any eye contact with chile particles), then stir the powder into the pork. Stir in the red onion. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice and fish sauce; pour the mixture over the pork and stir to coat. Taste and add additional lime juice and/or fish sauce if needed. Just before serving, stir in the mint and cilantro. Top with fresh chiles, if using.
- Lime Leaves and Fish Sauce
- Kaffir lime leaves are a signature ingredient in Thai cooking; they are extremely aromatic, the flavor of lime multiplied by a thousand. Combine them with fish sauce—a salty, fermented fish condiment—and you’ve got your essential Thai flavor bases covered.
- You can find fish sauce and lime leaves in Asian groceries and some international stores. Look for either fresh or frozen lime leaves, and stock your freezer with them so you always have some on hand when they are called for in a recipe. Avoid dried lime leaves, as much of the flavor of the leaves is lost when they are dried.