Saturday, December 28, 2013

"I was working in the Laab late one night..."

Moi encore,

If you've been reading my contributions for any significant stretch of time, you'll know that I don't usually subscribe to the concept that "simplest is best". I like to complicate things and throw more stuff into a recipe than might make sense. But sometimes I come across a dish whose strength lies in its (relative) simplicity. One such case is a Loatian/Thai staple called "Laab" (or "Larb"). Laab is, essentially, a salad of ground pork or beef mixed with shallots, fish sauce, lime juice, herbs and a couple of other ingredients. I first tried it at Play where it was served on lettuce wraps, and I was hooked. It can be served hot or cold, raw or cooked (I recommend the latter) and presented pretty much any way you like. As I said: simple.

The flavour profile highlights a few of the cornerstones of Southeast Asian cooking, namely the uniquely funky saltiness of fish sauce, the tart sweetness of lime juice and the herbal notes of mint, cilantro and/or Thai basil. And that's just the basic model.

So, today I'll be walking you through the how-to on this delicious and easy bit of gastronomy!



- 1 lb. ground beef or pork
- 2 shallots, minced or thinly sliced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger or galangal, minced OR 1 tsp dried ginger or galangal
- 1 lime, cut in half
- 2 tbsp fish sauce + 1 tsp on the side
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sriracha (optional)
- 2-3 tbsp jasmine rice

Plus, choice of any or all of the following:

- 2 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 2 tbsp Thai basil, chopped
- 2 tbsp green onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 1/2 cup grated red cabbage

Putting things together


- Mix meat well with shallots, garlic, ginger, juice and zest of half a lime, 2 tbsp of fish sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and sriracha. Let stand in fridge for at least an hour to let flavours mix.
- Toast the rice in a frying pan for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Grind rice into a coarse powder in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Set aside to cool.
- In a large frying pan, cook meat for 10 minutes until well cooked through. Set aside to cool for a little bit until it's warm, but not hot.
-  Stir in whatever herbs and veggies you like (I went with mint, cilantro and carrot the last time I made it), along with the remaining lime juice and fish sauce.
- Serve on lettuce wraps or in a bowl or whatever you like!

Getting closer to deliciousness

I love Laab so very much. It combines meaty richness with all the freshness of lime juice and herbs and veggies, with a little bit of an exotic crunch from the toasted rice. It's a fairly light meal, but still satisfying. I highly recommend you try your hand making it or at least finding a restaurant that serves it.

The finished product, except not the one I made, because I forgot to take a picture of it... oops...

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