Search
Food corner

"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

Twitter feed
Tags
Aleppo pepper Alicante all spice almond anchovy apple apricot Argentina artichokes asparagus aubergine autumn avocado bacon banana Bangkok barbecue basil bay leaf beef beetroot bergamot berry biscuit bistro bloggers blue cheese Bolivia Borough Market bread breadcrumbs British budget budwig diet Buenos Aires buffalo sauce bulgar wheat burrata butter cabbage cafe cake Calais capers caramel caraway cardamom carrot cauliflower champagne chard cheddar cheese chicken chickpeas chicory chilli chocolate chorizo Christmas cinnamon clams cloves cobnut cocoa coconut cooking class Copenhagen Córdoba coriander cornflakes Corsica cottage cheese courgette flowers crayfish cream cream cheese creme fraiche cucumber culinary catastrophe cumin currants daikon Dalmatia dates delivery dessert dill dips dough Dubrovnik Easter easy Edinburgh egg eggplant fennel festive feta fettuccine ffine bean fflour Filipino filo fine dining Finsbury Park fish fish sauce five spice flour food aid food anthropology food tour French game garlic gastropub gherkin ginger gluten free goat's cheese goat's curd golden syrup greengage Guinness halloumi ham Hanoi harissa hazelnut hibiscus Hoi An hominy honey horseradish humanitarian relief Indian Islington Istanbul Italian jam Japanese juniper Kent ketchup kielbasa kinilaw Korean lamb langoustine leek lemon lemongrass lentils lime linseed llime lobster London loquat Madrid market mascarpone Mayfair Mendoza Mexican mid-range milk mint mirin mixed peel mixed spice monk's beard morcilla mozzarella mushroom mussels mustard mustard seed Nahm Natoora Nepalese New Nordic New Year's Day New Zealand noras nose-to-tail NYC oats olive olive oil onion orange Oxfordshire oxtail paprika Paris Parmesan parsley party pastry peanut pear peas pepper Peru Philippines pickle pine nuts pistachio pizza pomegranate pomegranate molasses pop-ups pork Porto Vecchio potato prawn preserved lemon prosciutto Provence providore prunes Puerto Iguazú pulse pumpkin purple sprouting broccoli quail egg quick radish ragu raisins ramen ras el hanout raspberries red pepper paste red wine refugees restaurant rhubarb ribs rice ricotta rocket rosemary runner bean saffron sage San Sebastian sausage scallops seafood shallot short and sweet slow-cooked smoked mackerel smoked salmon sorrel souffle soy spaghetti spinach spring squid ssauces St Basil's Day stilton stock street food sugar sumac summer supper club Sydney syrup Tabasco tagliatelle tahini take away tamarind tarragon tart Thai thyme toffee tom yum paste tomato tomato paste tray bake tuna Turkey veal vegetarian versatile Vietnam Vietnamese vinegar walnut water chestnut white pepper wine wings winter yoghurt
« Tetsuya's restaurant; a special occasion | Main | Guest post: Chef Has (my Dad) shares his recipe for raita »
Monday
Feb072011

Larbilicious

One of the nice things about writing this blog is that I find out a lot of interesting things in the process. I have been making larb for years – it is a staple canapé for our annual Christmas Eve party and Dad entrusted me with it early on because it is extremely easy. I have always thought it was ubiquitous in Thai cuisine, just as it is in Sydney’s Thai restaurants, but I have just discovered that it is actually a regional dish from Isan, in north east Thailand, and probably originated further afield. In his book, Thai Food, David Thompson shares some theories on the salad’s historic origins:

A larp is an ancient salad. Some argue that it has the same origins as steak tartare, raw meat eaten with onions. The merchants of this part of Asia, the Haw, may have helped to spread the dish from the south-west of China and now, throughout northern Thailand, there are adaptations of this style of salad. 

Wikipedia suggests that larb may have come to Thailand from Laos:

Laotian cuisine has strongly influenced the neighboring cuisine of Northeastern Thailand (Isan) ... The most famous Laotian dish is Larb ... a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like ceviche) with a variable combination of herbs, greens, and spices. 

Leaving aside the steak tartare idea, which would have come from the French colonists rather than the Haw, these two suggestions make sense together when you consider the geography of the region; Laos is bordered by China in the North and Thailand to the South East.

The version that Dad and I make is cooked over heat rather than by marinating in the citrus dressing (which is not technically ‘cooking’ but has a similar effect). Once upon a time we used David Thompson’s recipe but, as these things have a tendency to do, it has evolved over time. Nonetheless, there are two elements of Thompson’s recipe which I have always stuck to. 

Firstly, I always cook the meat in a small amount of stock, rather than oil. Apart from the fact that this a healthier option, it ensures that the meat does not brown, instead remaining moist and tender, as it would if it had simply been marinated.

Secondly, I always add a tablespoon of ground, toasted rice; this is always included in traditional recipes for larb, but is sometimes omitted in western restaurants or by lazy chefs (read Hash Brown). The toasted rice adds a wonderful nutty flavour to the dish and helps to bind the salad.

I usually make larb gai (chicken) or larb moo (pork) because I think it works best with white meat; light and refreshing. For this reason, I am also keen to try it with fish. I am not so fond of beef or duck larb, which I find too heavy, but a similar dish called nuea yang nam tok (grilled 'waterfall' beef) made with strips of rare beef rather than minced beef is delicious. 

This recipe will serve four to six people as part of a traditional Thai meal, i.e. alongside several other shared dishes. Traditionally, it is served with two or three raw vegetables and steamed rice. I don’t serve it with rice everytime, but always with lettuce leaves (try baby gem or trimmed iceberg leaves) and strips of cucumber. To do it as a canapé simply spoon the salad into the lettuce leaves or serve on betel leaves, if you can source them.

Ingredients

100ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp palm sugar (or caster)
500g lean meat or fish, minced or very finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
Juice of 3 limes, or to taste
3 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
1 tsp hot chilli powder, or to taste
Large handful coriander (approx 20g), finely chopped
Large handful mint (approx 20g), finely chopped
1 tbsp ground toasted rice (sticky rice preferable, but otherwise short-medium grain)
1 small red chilli, finely sliced (optional)

 

Method

In a large pan or wok, heat the stock with the sugar. When it is simmering, add the meat and stir continuously. When the meat is almost cooked, add the shallots and cook until the meat is just done.

Remove from the heat and season with the lime and fish sauce; if the sauce is too sour, add some more fish sauce, if it is too salty add more lime.  Next add the chilli powder, and again adjust as necessary.

Stir through the coriander and mint, as well as half of the toasted rice. Garnish with the remaining rice and the red chilli slices. 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (2)

I am thrilled to find your recipe. I had Larb last night and was going to look for a recipe today anyway. i appreciate your notes and thoughts about variations.

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmyarizona

Hi Amyarizona, glad to be of help. I too enjoyed finding out about the history and variations.

February 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterVix

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>