Mustard With Mutton

Larb – Laotian Minced Meat & Herb Salad

I’ve been making various versions of larb for a long time. It’s an amazingly delicious and healthy salad of minced meat (your choice of pork, chicken, beef or even duck) loaded with fresh herbs and finished off with a punchy lime and fish sauce dressing. If you use lean meat it’s virtually fat free and let me tell you there aren’t too many meals that pack this much flavour with so few calories. Most people think larb is a Thai dish but it actually originated in Laos, it’s certainly popular in Thailand and it’s a common dish on most Thai menus here in Sydney.  I usually make chicken larb but decided to used lean minced pork for a change. I also added bean thread noodles which bulk the salad up a bit and add a nice textural contrast. You can make this as spicy or as mild as you like and if I’m serving it to a mixed crowd of adults and children I leave the chillies out and serve them on the side. I highly recommend  going through the effort of making roasted rice powder. The finishing touch of sprinkling the larb with the rice powder makes a big difference to the overall taste, aroma and texture of the dish and elevates home made larb to restaurant level. I served this as a part of an Asian dinner alongside some soy braised beef ribs but it’s substantial enough to serve as a meal on it’s own with just some steamed jasmine rice on the side.

Ingredients – Serves 4 as part of a shared meal

Dressing
⅓ cup fresh lime juice
⅓ cup fish sauce
¼ teaspoon chilli powder – optional
1 tablespoon grated palm sugar

Salad
50g bean thread noodles
400g minced pork or chicken – free range or organic if possible. You can also use turkey, beef or duck
½ a medium red onion, finely sliced – in this instance I used spring onions as that’s all I had on hand but red onions or shallots work best
1 small bunch of mint, leaves removed and large ones torn in half
1 bunch coriander, leaves removed
1 large red chilli, seeded and sliced – you can leave this out and serve on the side if you prefer
1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced thinly

Roasted Rice (makes more than you will need but stores well)
½ cup gelatinous rice

Method

To make the dressing place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust with more lime juice, fish sauce or sugar to get a good balance.

Soak the bean thread noodles in cold water for 30 minutes, then drain and set aside. To make the roasted rice, place the rice in a small dry skillet over medium heat and cook stirring until the grains of rice have turned golden brown. Place into a clean coffee grinder and grind until it forms a fine powder. You can also grind it in a mortar and pestle.

In a wok or saucepan bring abut 1/3 cup of water to the boil and add the minced meat. Stir fry and cook until the water has evaporated and the meat is cooked through, breaking up the mince with your spoon as you cook it. Turn off the heat and add the noodles and mix them with the meat. Place the mince and noodles in a large bowl and let them cool slightly. Add all the other ingredients  and mix together with the dressing. Place on a serving platter and sprinkle generously with the roasted rice powder.