How to make the perfect pork (or chicken, duck or tofu) larb – recipe | Food

Larb, also transliterated as larp, ​​lap, laap, laarp, and laab, is a dish that doesn’t fit easily into Western boxes. A highly seasoned mix of minced meat, fish, tofu or mushrooms: Thai food writer Leela Punyaratabandhu clarifies that laab “is a verb denoting mincing of meat” which, as fellow Thai food writer Kay Plunkett-Hogge observes, ” It can also be called a salad by virtue of the fact that it is often served on lettuce leaves.

It’s not even strictly Thai, though most Brits are likely to have encountered it in the travel hub of South East Asia; a northern specialty, it is said to have originated with the Tai people, and variations on the dish are also found in Laos, Myanmar, and southwestern China. However, you’re probably familiar with laarp isaan, from the northeastern Thai region of the same name: as Punyaratabandhu explains, “The way the lap is made varies from province to province, and it’s hard to pin down a normative version, “Yes, there is. But this version is the most common in Bangkok and in Thai restaurants outside of Thailand. It also happens to be one of the simplest.”

The meat (or not)

Laab must be cut by hand, says chef David Thompson.The meat for the larb must be cut by hand, chef David Thompson insists. All Felicity Cloake miniatures.

Almost every recipe I try makes it clear that almost any meat will do; as Plunkett-Hogge says in her book Baan, “feel free to substitute pork, chicken or rabbit for the duck…firm tofu can also be used, as can mushrooms for non-meat eaters.” I try pork (lean meat is usually specified), chicken, duck, and tofu, and I can confirm that they all make great blank canvases for seasonings. But my testers and I found the chicken breast I used in Punyaratabandhu’s recipe a bit dry, so while the meat should ideally be fairly lean (it’s not cooked long enough for the fat to melt), I suspect thigh, or a mix of the two, might be a better choice if you opt for the chicken.

Most recipes call for ground or minced meat, with only David Thompson specifying that it should be cut by hand: the Australian-born celebrity chef tells Marina O’Loughlin that one should do this “just before cooking, so it doesn’t make one”. chance to rust, and you don’t get a messy, bloody mix.” Plunkett-Hogge, who sent me a video of a Karen elephant mahout cutting buffalo meat with an impressive-looking cleaver, says she likes to “cut by hand when I can; the meat should have a nice mouthfeel and a little of texture”. . But my attitude is that the dish is so good, you can use whatever you can get your hands on. Most of my friends buy minced meat at the local supermarket or butcher shop. I don’t like a lot of gristle or lumps, but some do.” I also prefer the slightly larger chunks you get when you slice rather than grind your meat, but if you’d rather buy ground beef, go for it.

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The kitchen

J Lab by Kenji López-Alt for Felicity Cloake Jan 29, 2022J Kenji López-Alt makes his larb by adding a little liquid to the pan before cooking the meat.

If using tofu, I recommend frying it in neutral oil over medium-high heat until browned, rather than using the “ruan” technique of “cooking ground beef in a bit of water,” which Pailin Chongchitnant of the Hot Thai Kitchen blog and The channel’s suggestions arose because Isaan is a “very poor area of ​​Thailand, and…water is cheaper than oil, so if you can cook something in water instead of oil, why not?” ” Fortunately, this also leaves the meat juicy, rather than greasy, as J Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats discovered the fried variety, while poaching, he says, strips the meat of some of its flavor. He describes rouan, which fries meat in a small volume of liquid, as “the best of both worlds.” My testers and I like the way it adds a bit of fish sauce to the pan, so the meat soaks up some of the intensely salty flavor that’s a key note of the dish as a whole.


Heavy on the shallots: the lab of Kay Plunkett-Hogge.Kay Plunkett-Hogge’s larb goes heavy on the shallots.

Often described as a salad, Plunkett-Hogge owes more to accompaniments than main ingredients, though she tells me she likes her larb heavy with shallots. These are perhaps the most common additions, usually sliced ​​thin and raw, but I like the way Chongchitnant adds them to the hot pan to wilt. Lopez-Alt fries hers until crisp, while Thompson also mashes charred shallots into the mix to give her version a slightly smoky back note. We found that the spiciness of the raw variety (small red shallots are more fiery than the pink ones, but both will do) works best with the other spiciness in play here, but if you want a bit more sweetness you can go off-piste. and add crispy shallots as a garnish. Chongchitnant, Lopez-Alt, and Thompson also add scallions, and the latter also adds fried garlic, but I’m going to keep things simple and stick with just one allium, because I’d like to try the meat.

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Punyaratabandhu starts his dish with roasted galangal, which is spicy, slightly bitter and aromatic, while Plunkett-Hogge adds the more delicately scented lemongrass. Both are nice complements, if you have them, but neither feel like they make or break the dish, unlike sharp shallots or fresh herbs, which, as López-Alt points out, “play a big part” here. Mint and cilantro are the most common, and López-Alt also suggests basil. A recipe for chain Rosa’s Thai Cafe calls for dill, which is a bit strange, perhaps, but easier to come by than Thompson’s requested sawtooth cilantro or Vietnamese mint, both of which are elusive even after a tour of the South From london. East Asian specialists. If soapy coriander and sweet mint are good enough for Punyaratabandhu, however, they are good enough for me.

The condiments

'Predominantly sour, then salty': Leela Punyaratabandhu's laab.‘Predominantly sour, then salty’: larb of Leela Punyaratabandhu.

Punyaratabandhu informs readers of his book Simple Thai Food that larb should be “predominantly sour, then salty”, something echoed by Plunkett-Hogge, who describes its flavor profile as “sharp, spicy and salty”. This means lots of fish sauce and lime juice, but no sugar, or at least not more than a pinch. The two tablespoons of palm sugar in the Serious Eats version remind me of Plunkett-Hogge’s plea that the dish “shouldn’t be sweet. This is a big problem of mine with Thai food – sugar has crept in where it shouldn’t be. Isaan food is strong, hot, sour, salty – it’s a very hot climate and you want those flavors.”

That heat comes from the dried and ground bird’s eye chiles. López-Alt advises that the quality of the chiles is of the utmost importance: “I’ve seen recipes that call for simply using dried red chili flakes, but lack the dark, smoky, sweet-spicy flavor of ground Thai-style dried chili. .” Fortunately, they are quite readily available in their whole form and can be ground up and added to taste.

Pailin Chongchitnant's laab with tofu: '“without milled rice, it's not a laab'.Pailin Chongchitnant Tofu Larb: ‘No ground rice, it’s not larb.’

Finally, we come to khao khua, or sticky rice powder, an intimidating-sounding ingredient, but it’s literally sticky rice roasted in a dry pan and then smashed to pieces in a mortar; in Chongchitnant’s view, “without this, it’s not a laap.” ”. The ground rice adds a slightly bitter, nutty flavor and interesting grit, and while it’s available ready-to-use, it’s much better to make at home: as Chongchitnant notes, the aroma is “very fleeting,” so it’s worth doing as much. as you need.

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Larb should be served warm or at room temperature with a mix of crisp fresh vegetables (lettuce leaves, cucumber sticks, raw beans or cabbage) and steamed sticky rice. You could top it off with fresh chillies and crispy crumbled pork rinds, as López-Alt recommends, but I think you’d be wasting time you could be spending eating.

Perfect pork larb (or chicken, duck, or tofu)

Homework 20 minutes
Cook 2 minutes
It serves 2 with rice and vegetablesor 4 as part of a larger meal

3 tablespoons glutinous/sticky riceplus extra to serve
200g fairly lean pork, chicken thighs, duck breast or tofu (if using the latter, see note on frying above), coarsely chopped or finely chopped by hand
1 tablespoon fish sauce (vegan if necessary)
4 red shallotsor 2 round shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
½-2 teaspoons Thai red chili powder (made from ground dried bird’s eye chilies), to taste – I used 1 tsp, which made the finished dish quite spicy
1½ tablespoon lime juice
1 large handful of fresh coriander
coarsely chopped
1 large handful of fresh mint leavescoarsely chopped
Steamed sticky rice, lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, raw green beans, etc.serve

Cloake larb - roasted rice Photograph: Dan Matthews/The Guardian. Gastronomic styling: Löic Parisot.

To make the rice powder, toast the uncooked rice in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring or shaking the pan very frequently, until deep golden in color, then use a mortar and pestle or spice mill to grind. to dust.

Felicity Cloake's Chicken Larb Photograph: Dan Matthews/The Guardian. Gastronomic styling: Löic Parisot.

Put two tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the meat and a dash of fish sauce, and cook, stirring, until cooked (even if you want it fully cooked, be careful not to overdo it or the end result will be rubbery).

Felicity Cloake's Chicken Larb Photograph: Dan Matthews/The Guardian. Gastronomic styling: Löic Parisot.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the sliced ​​shallots. Allow to wilt for a few seconds, then add the chili, the rest of the fish sauce, and the lime juice. Taste and add more of any of these to taste, then stir in the herbs and a tablespoon and a half of the rice powder.

Serve hot with sticky rice and crispy vegetables.

Laab, lap, laap, larb – it comes to us transcribed many different ways, but which version is your favorite (I’m intrigued by the spicy, viscera-rich laab kua) and what do you like to serve it with?

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