I may alienate my Thai friends by designating Larb as Laotian. Indeed, many Thai restaurants in the US offer Larb on their menu. Irrespective of the origin (after all Laos and Thailand share a border and history), all will agree that the rest of humanity is grateful for this éclat of a salad from Southeast Asia. Moreover, it can be simply put together in ten minutes in your kitchen! But you need to stock your pantry with a trip to your South-East Asian grocery (lemongrass, fish sauce).
I use the Mediterranean capers to deepen the citrus accent and Amazonian macambo nuts for texture (& ‘superfood’ factor). These nuts are somewhat large and I compare that to the size of a quarter in the photograph (do NOT use the coin in your recipe!). All the ingredients are easily accessible (over the internet) or have simple substitutes. But the result is incroyable, as they say. Do give it a try.
- 1 lb ground meat (lamb or chicken or turkey)
- Greens: 2 cups of lightly packed baby beet greens + 1 cup lightly packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 pods of garlic crushed and cooked lightly in 2 tbsp oil, till fragrant
- Seasoning liquid: juice of 1 lime + 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 large shallot thinly sliced + 4-5 scallions finely sliced + 2-3 serrano chilies + white part of 1 lemon-grass stalk very finely minced + 1 tbsp capers OR zest of one lime
- 1/2 cup Macambo nuts lightly toasted and coarsely crushed
Heat a thick bottomed pan. Add the oil from the crushed garlic mix, add the minced meat and saute, breaking up the lumps, till granular and cooked. This takes about five minutes. Mix the rest of the ingredients, except the greens, till well mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning. Then fold in the greens.
Notes, hints, tips:
- You can use any other light greens, including cilantro leaves.
- Instead of greens folded into the salad, you can serve it with butter lettuce leaves (in the Korean way) or cabbage leaves, cut into wedges.
- The lemon grass is very hard and you may need to use a processor if your knife is unable to handle it.
- You can use any nuts: peanuts is traditional. But feel free to use your favorite.