The Isaan classic Larb is a favourite quick and easy dinner in our house. It’s perfect for when you’re craving something that’s packed with flavour but isn’t heavy. And if, like me (yes I’m always whingeing about this) you bemoan the lack of fresh herbs used in Thai eateries, here’s your chance to use a whole bunch of coriander in one smart hit and prevent the fate of instant wilting that awaits a leftover half bunch in your fridge.
You can make larb with chicken, pork or beef mince, and the best larb is made from fresh meat you have minced yourself – less moisture/fat content makes for a more textural and flavourful finish. But for the purposes of a quick meal, there’s nowt wrong with using mince.
Larb gai (serves 4)
2 cups chicken, pork or beek stock
650g minced chicken, pork or beef
2-4 tsp dried chilli flakes
2Tbsp fish sauce
2Tbsp fresh lime juice (or lemon if you can’t get lime)
1/2-1 bunch coriander, (depending how much you like the stuff), roughly chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup chopped spring onion (optional)
2Tbsp ground roasted jasmine rice*
Bring the stock to the boil in a deep frying pan or wok then add the meat and cook through (10 minutes or so), breaking it up as it cooks. Drain off most of the liquid, then return to the heat and add the chilli, fish sauce and lime juice and stir through.
Turn off the heat and stir through the rest of the ingredients. Taste for balance of salty and sour flavour – if it needs more salt add more fish sauce, more sour add more lime juice. If you’re a chilli freak you’ll want more than 4tsp here, but 2-4tsp is about right for the average palate.
Serve with steamed jasmine rice (sticky rice even better if you know how to make it), and cups made of iceberg lettuce. Spoon a little rice and larb into the lettuce cups, wrap up and enjoy a crunchy, soft, salty, sour, slightly spicy piece of genius. Thanks Isaan people, you sure know how to treat the tastebuds.
*To make the rice ‘powder’, dry toast uncooked jasmine rice in a hot pan until golden and fragrant, then grind in a mortar and pestle to a coarse powder consistency. You could use a spice grinder if you have one.