Kelp Larb

Spiced, minced meat salad, larb, is quintessentially Thai. Years ago, while I was gradually encountering world cuisines in graduate school (ahh, no pun intended), I was struck by larb. Not the red curry, …, nor the masaman, the mainstays of many a Thai menu in the USA. Some food historians/chefs say that the Portuguese brought curry from India to Thailand. But I think the India southeast Asia trades go way back– to the first millennium. In any case, back to larb. It has no signs of any overt Indian influence, but it impressed this Indian enough to make it one of my mainstays of minced meat (in the ranks of keema, seekh/shami kebabs, burger).

Kelp is a seaweed, but not a plant. Considered a superfood, this algae is being sustainably and regeneratively ocean-farmed. Kelp tops the guilt-free list! An intrinsic part of Japanese cooking, kelp is not a complete stranger to the food world.

I bring these two wonders together. I resort to Akua‘s kelp burger “meat” for this equally appealing, delicious larb. Enjoy!

SPECIAL TOOLS:

A chop-stir spatula (optional), thick-bottomed pan.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb kelp-burger “meat”
  • 1 tbsp chili infused EVOO
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • Larb sauce: 1/4 cup lime juice + 1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc nam) + 1 tbsp honey/brown sugar
  • Garnish:
    • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves + 2 tbsp fresh mint (if not using dried mint)
    • 2 scallions fine chopped + 2 shallots thinly sliced
    • 1 tbsp rice powder (toast rice grains and grind, don’t substitute with rice flour)

METHOD

Heat the EVOO on medium in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the kelp burger meat and the dried mint, and chop-stir for five minutes or so until the “meat” is browned and has a coarse breadcrumb texture. Turn off the heat. Immediately, add the larb sauce and mix well. Then add all the garnish ingredients.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. The larb recipe is inspired by the chefs of omsom.com.
  2. The larb recipe works well with real meat as well- minced turkey, chicken or lamb.
  3. I use the the chop-stir, bought from a specialty store– but you could use just a wooden spatula. Usually, I am not a fan of hyper-specialized tools, but with this one I must make an exception.
  4. Serve with lettuce or radicchio leaves.

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