This month I’ve been back on the carnivore train. I’ve gone through long phases of quasi-vegetarianism, but lately my body has been growling for meat. And not just any meat. I’ve been craving ground meat. So comforting. So chewy. And relatively cheap. But. It can be so darn boring, and kind of terrible for you, depending on what you do with it. So, it’s time to look beyond chili, burgers and Bolognese to a new realm. Welcome to the land of larb.
Larb is considered the national dish of Laos, and is like a salad made with ground chicken, beef or pork and topped with fresh herbs, spices and vegetables. Toasted ground rice is the classic finisher for the dish (but is entirely optional). There are about a million variations of the dish throughout Southeast Asia. For today, let’s focus on a basic preparation with the most accessible ingredients. For instance, I've foregone lemongrass and subbed in lime zest. The easier the ingredients, the more likely you are to actually cook.
Larb is a really healthy way to savor some big Asian flavors and comforting ground meat. Served alongside a simple green salad, larb is gluten-free and relatively low fat. Plus the flavor is incredible. Larb also makes a great pack-ahead lunch, since it’s traditionally served at room temperature or cooler and the veggies aren’t too prone to wilting.
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 8 min Total Time: 23 min
1 tsp grapeseed or canola oil
2 shallots, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
I Lb / 450 g ground chicken, turkey, pork or beef (I prefer white meats)
2 tsp chili-garlic sauce OR 1 seeded, minced chili pepper
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2-3 limes (about 3 Tbs)
3 Tbs fish sauce, divided
2 tsp brown sugar
Garnishes: Toasted rice powder,* chopped cashews or peanuts, seeded diced chili, sliced radish, sliced green onions, cucumber, tomato, Sriracha, limes, mint or cilantro leaves
Heat skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook 30 seconds, then add ground meat, 1 tsp fish sauce, chili, a pinch of salt, and lime zest. Stir fry meat, breaking up chunks, til no longer pink. Take skillet off heat.
Combine remaining fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Drizzle over meat. Serve over simple greens or alongside rice or thin rice noodles with plenty of garnishes on the side.
*To make rice powder: Put 4 Tbs raw rice in a skillet and cook over medium heat (dry) til rice is just lightly toasted, 4-5 minutes. Grind in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.