Citizens, Larb (Lao: ລາບ; Thai: ลาบ, rtgs: lap, pronounced [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 where many people are of Laotian descent. Hmong people in Laos share the dish as well.
Outside of Southeast Asia, larb is served in Lao, Thai, and Hmong communities in the U.S., France, and England. Local variants of larb also feature in the cuisines of the Tai peoples of Shan State, Burma, and Yunnan province, China.
The word “larb”, although seemingly a cognate of the Laotian and Thai words for “luck”, actually comes from a Lanna (Northern Thai) word meaning “to mince meat”.
In Laos, Larb is most often made with chicken (which still exists as a wild bird in Laos!), beef, duck, fish, pork or mushrooms, flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, padaek, roasted ground rice and fresh herbs.
The meat can be either raw or cooked; it is minced and mixed with chili, mint and, optionally, assorted vegetables.
Roughly ground toasted rice (khao khua) is also a very important component of the dish. The dish is served at room temperature and usually with a serving of sticky rice and raw vegetables.
Use only fresh, blemish-free herbs. Chop and slice them by hand, because a food processor will bruise them. Loosely pack the herbs into the measuring cup – more is better here. Although you can use pre-ground chicken, chopping the meat yourself gives the dish a finer, more desirable texture.
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For the roasted rice powder:
About 5 tablespoons of uncooked Thai sticky rice to make khao kua
For the Larb:
2 whole boneless chicken breasts or 3 lbs ground chicken
Juice of 2 large limes, plus 1 lime for garnish
2 tbsp Chinese Shaoxing rice wine
2 tsp minced fresh ginger (for a more traditional taste, substitute galanga)
1 stalk minced lemongrass, tough outer leaves, root, and top several inches removed before mincing
3 tsp grated lime zest
2 small Thai birds-eye chili peppers, finely minced or use Serrano’s for less heat
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp light brown sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
3 tbsp khao kua (roasted rice powder)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 heaping cup chopped fresh mint
3/4 heaping cup chopped cilantro
1/4 heaping cup chopped culantro (sawtooth herb) – if not available, use cilantro
1 bunch of green onions, green part finely chopped, white part sliced diagonally
½ cup chopped Thai basil
1 large head leaf lettuce (16 leaves, for wrappers)
Several additional stems of mint and cilantro, for garnish
The first step is to make the toasted rice.
Heat a frying pan on low heat, then toss in the uncooked Thai sticky rice (no oil). Stir continuously.
Toast the rice until it turns from white to golden yellow, almost to the point where it looks like brown wheat. It will also be very fragrant and smell almost like popcorn, after about 15 minutes or so.
Once the rice is finished toasting, and has cooled off a bit, put it into your stone mortar and pestle. Pound the rice until it turns into a coarse powder (a blender or food processor will also work fine). Put your toasted sticky rice powder aside in a bowl.
On a large, clean chopping board, chop the chicken with a heavy knife or cleaver. As you chop the chicken, fold it over on itself. Continue to fold and chop until the meat is very finely chopped. Put the meat in a large bowl and squeeze the lime juice over it. Add the rice wine.
Cook the chicken mixture in a nonstick skillet (don’t use any oil) over medium-high heat, tossing and stirring constantly just until the meat turns white. Return the mixture with any accumulated juice to the bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.
While the chicken cools, prepare the fresh herbs. Add the ginger (or galanga), lemongrass, lime zest, chili peppers, garlic, fish sauce, salt, white pepper, light brown sugar and rice powder to the cooled mixture. Break apart the chicken bouillon cube and sprinkle it on top.
Toss the ingredients together until they are well mixed. Then add the mint, cilantro, green onions, and Thai basil. Gently toss everything together. Break lettuce leaves away from the head, and wash and dry them.
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