Larb, or ‘Laab’ as it sometimes spelled, is a cold salad of meat, herbs and other seasonings that is not only reckoned to be the national dish of Laos but also quite common in Thailand as well. The meat is often beef or pork, sometimes raw, sometimes cooked, but fish and poultry version exist as well. As to the seasonings and other ingredients, the variations are endless but fish sauce, lime juice, chili, mint and basil make regular appearances, with some versions adding a host of spices including cumin, cloves, star anise, galangal, and others. Garnishes can be fried onions, peanuts, chopped chili, and various herbs and, in Laos especially roasted ground rice powder is commonly used as a flavoring agent and binder.
After seeing a number of recipes where the salad is served as a wrap in lettuce or other leafy herbs, I thought it might make an interesting appetizer if used as a filling for some endive leaves I happened to have leftover from a previous meal. For this experiment, I decided to use my homemade Sambal Terasi paste as part of the spice flavoring but you could substitute any commercial Thai curry or spice paste of your choosing…
- 6 Endive leaves;
- ½ cup cooked ground Pork;
- 1 ½ tsp. Sambal Terasi;
- ½ tsp. minced Garlic;
- ½ tsp. minced Lemon Grass;
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh Mint;
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh Basil;
- 1 tsp. Fish Sauce (use a little more if using a substitute for the Sambal Terasi);
- ½ tsp. Sugar.
- 2 tbsp. chopped peanuts;
- 1 small red chili sliced thinly on the bias.
This really couldn’t be simpler. Mash the chopped garlic and lemongrass to a paste along with the sugar and then stir this into the meat and all the other ingredients except the peanuts and chili. Now fill the endive leaves, garnish the peanuts and chili slices and then serve.
This was really pretty good with the exception that the filling was a little too salty because of the Sambal Terasi. I think next time, I would just use plain chili paste, up the fish sauce a little, and maybe add a little Galanga as well. The mint was very nice but probably a little more basil would be an improvement as it barely came through in the small amount I chose here. Anyway… despite a little tweaking being in order, I like the basic idea here and will try it again.