Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Larb: A Perfect Dish for Summer

Larb may be a dish from Northern Thailand and Laos, but I can't help but wonder if its creators invented the dish knowing that many years later, inhabitants of New York would need some refreshing and hearty dishes to get them through their hot summers. Simple to prepare and best at room temperature, larb, bursting with the refreshing flavors of lime, galangal, fish sauce, cilantro, and mint, really is a perfect dish for a hot summer night.

The most difficult part of making larb is purchasing the ingredients, which will definitely require a trip to a well-stocked Asian market, and preferably one that serves a Thai or Lao clientele. While you're there, buy fish sauce, galangal, lime leaves, and roasted rice powder. The good news is that you will get to make many more larbs before you need to return (store the lime leaves and the galangal in the freezer). I cheated and used some powdered galangal that I already had on hand:

The remaining ingredients can be purchased at any store: oil, ground pork, mint, cilantro, red pepper flakes, and lime juice. Cook the pork in a skillet, mix it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, and serve it with jasmine or sticky rice, and some summer rolls. The below recipe is a simplified larb recipe adapted from Penn Hongthong's Simple Lao Cooking, but the Significant Eater, who grew up eating plenty of larb herself, proclaimed its flavors just as authentic as the real deal.

Larb Moo (Pork Larb)
Serves 4

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp galangal, minced, or 1 tsp ground galangal
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, minced
  • 1 tbsp roasted rice powder
  • 1 tbsp lemongrass, minced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, chopped
  1. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add pork and cook until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Set pork in a bowl and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Mix pork with remaining ingredients and serve with rice.

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