Larb. I can’t get enough of it. From Wikipedia:
Larb (Lao: ລາບ; Thai: ลาบ, RTGS: lap [lâːp], also spelled laap, larp, lahb or laab) is a type of Lao minced meat salad that is regarded as the national dish of Laos. It is also eaten in Isan, an area of Thailand of which its inhabitants are for a large part of Laotian descent. There are also Lao and Thai communities in the U.S., France, and England, resulting in larb being served in those areas as well. Local variants of larb also feature in the cuisines of the Tai peoples of Shan State, Burma, and Yunnan province, China.
Any way you slice it, larb is a deeply flavorful meat dish – usually served in lettuce wraps – and generally how I’ve experienced it, as a starter. I’ve had versions with so much lime my mouth tingled, versions that were so hot it made the endorphins fly, and versions that are decidedly more bland. I dream about larb.
This is one of those dishes I try to recreate from memory in a thousand different ways, but usually what I’m going for is crispy little nibblins of meat swathed in a fair hit of lime and chased by enough heat to at least tickle the back of the throat. Sticky rice is fantastic, but not something I generally eat – so I serve it in other ways. Lettuce cups would certainly be fantastic here, but they just don’t work very well in my household. So, bowl it is. Tonight’s rendition was served over a bed of salt and pepper roasted carrots in an effort to throw some veggies into the mix so we weren’t just eating a bowl of meat for dinner. This was a protein-heavy dinner and a light one at that. If you’d like to beef it up with more substance, feel free to make extra carrots or throw in some broccoli or cauliflower rice.
Gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30 compliant with adjustments
Larb-Inspired Paleo Thai Poultry Bowl
1 pound ground meat (I used turkey, pork and chicken are also good)
1 large shallot
1 stalk lemongrass
1/4 cup lime juice (I use key lime juice)
2 large cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. Red Boat fish sauce
1 tsp. sweetener (I used brown sugar, but honey or agave would be fine – omit if Whole30)
1-2 Tbsp. sriracha (if Whole30, use a compliant hot sauce)
2 Tbsp. cilantro
1/2 inch fresh ginger
2 tsp. sesame oil (check your labels if Whole30)
2 tsp. coconut oil
First, assemble your sauce. Mince the shallot (you want about 1/4 of a cup) and add half to a small bowl. To the bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, and sriracha. Grate the lemongrass, ginger and garlic into the bowl. Stir. Chop the cilantro and add half to the bowl.
Now start the meat. In a large pan, heat the sesame and coconut oils over medium high heat. Add the meat and a couple pinches salt and cook, stirring to break up the big lumps, until cooked through. Add the sauce and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally to avoid burning, until browned to your liking.
Serve in a lettuce cup or over roasted carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower rice. Serves 2 for dinner if used as the main component of the meal.