Are you a fan of salads?
I don’t mean the kind with lettuces and greens but a MEAT salad. There’s nothing wrong with salads made from greens but, personally, I’ve gotten to where I can’t stand to eat them.
It happened the summer of 2004 when my husband and I went on a diet. We did great! I lost 20 pounds in two months! But we ate salad…non-stop. It seemed like we had salad for breakfast, salad for lunch, salad for dinner…you get the picture…we were sick of salads!
It’s now 2015 and I’m slowly getting back to eating salads…occasionally…like… once or twice a year. This girl can hold a food grudge! But I digress…let me introduce you to a spicy Thai pork salad called Larb (or Laap) Moo. It’s a traditional dish from northeastern Thailand and can be made with beef or chicken also. Pork happens to be my favorite. And we don’t think of it as a “salad” since it’s basically made from meat.
This is the kind of salad my husband craves. It’s actually one of his favorite dishes and we like to serve it with a green papaya salad and sticky rice or over steamed jasmine rice.
Larb is really easy to make. The only ingredients you’re going to cook are the pork (or whatever meat you decide to use) and minced garlic. All of the other ingredients are added fresh. Below is how I learned to make it from my mother (she’s a very tall 4’8″ Thai woman we affectionately call “Boo”).
- 2 tbsp. water
- 1 lb. ground pork*
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
- 1-2 inches lemongrass (the bottom whitish portion), finely minced
- 2-3 Thai hot peppers, thinly sliced or ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (adjust for your heat comfort level)
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced (or ½ of a red onion)
- 2 green onions, sliced (divide for use)
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1-2 limes
- 1 tbsp. uncooked long-grain rice, toasted and broken up (optional)
- handful of cilantro, chopped
- handful of basil leaves or mint (for garnish)
- Prep the pork by squeezing the juice of one lime over it and let it marinate for a few minutes before cooking. Prepare the other ingredients while you wait.
- Heat a medium sized skillet over high heat and when it's screaming hot, add a couple tablespoons of water. Immediately add the ground pork. Break up the pork while it's cooking so that you end up with fine pieces. Halfway through cooking lower the heat to medium, throw in the minced garlic, salt and pepper and cook until done.
- Remove from heat, drain away excess liquid and place cooked pork in a large bowl. Add minced lemongrass, Thai hot peppers, sliced shallots, fish sauce, cilantro and lime juice. Stir everything together, give it a taste and adjust with additional fish sauce or lime juice if needed. It should be tangy from the lime juice with hints of the fish sauce underneath and the heat from the peppers should creep up on you. Be careful with the fish sauce because it is salty.
- Once you have the flavor you're looking for add the toasted broken up rice and give it a quick mix. This adds a nice crunch to the salad.
- Garnish with remaining green onions and top it off with fresh mint, basil and more cilantro.
- Serve with extra lime wedges and lettuce leaves to make a wrap or with steamed Jasmine rice.
Our favorite way to eat this is with sticky rice and papaya salad.
*In addition to pork, I also like to add in some finely chopped liver and gizzards. Most of the larb served in restaurants won’t include them but if you’re eating this in a Thai household it will most likely have them.
If you’re adding livers and gizzards (or quail hearts like I did), cook them separately before you start making the Larb. I just boil them in water and change the water out once to get rid of the “scum” that forms while they cook. Let them cool and then slice or mince them.