Experiences - Asia

Larb – the signature delicacy of Laos

The northern region of Thailand has extravagant delicacies that tickle your palate. Larb, also known as Laab is a kind of minced meat salad that is regarded as the national dish of Laos.

It is also common in the northern region of Isan, where many people of Laotian descent are found. The word Larb, is derived from Lanna, Northern Thai which means “to mince meat”. However the Thai equivalent of the word Larb means ‘luck’.

Chicken Larb
Image Courtesy: stu_spivack used under the Creative Commons Licence

Larb is usually served with sticky rice and raw vegetables. One of the most essential ingredients in any Thai Larb recipe is khao kua, the rice is toasted until it turns golden brown which gives the pork a crunchy bite and a roasted fragrance.

However, there are different kinds of Larb based on the regions. These are the most common kinds of Larb available in Thailand:

Isan Larb is most commonly made with chicken, beef, duck, fish or pork, flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, ground rice and fresh herbs. The meat is either cooked or served raw and minced with chili, mint, vegetables and toasted rice (khao khua)  which is an important component of the dish.

The northern Thai Larb is quite different from the others and does not contain fish sauce or lime juice. The northern Thai version uses a mélange of dried spices for flavoring and seasoning which includes cumin, cloves, long pepper, star anise and cinnamon. There is also another kind of Northern Larb called Larb leut, a dish made with minced raw pork or beef, fat and bile mixed with spices, crispy fried onions, fresh herbs and other ingredients. Phrik Larb is a mix of dried spices used in northern Thailand.

Nam tok is a Lao word for waterfall. It is named after dripping meat juices while grilling meat/ beef as it is sliced. It refers to the dishes Ping Sin Nam Tok  in Laos or Nuea Yang Nam Tok in Thailand which is made from barbecued pork or beef, sliced into bite-size pieces and boiled with a stock while adding shallots, ground roasted rice, chili powder, lime juice and fish sauce along with shredded coriander leaves, spring onions and mint leaves.

Larb Gai with rice

Image Courtesy: Alpha used under the Creative Commons Licence

Here’s how you make Larb in 5 simple steps

You need

Minced pork/ chicken/ beef, chilli flakes (prik bon) to give it some colour and heat, a pinch of sugar, a dash of fish sauce, lime juice, shallots  and fresh mint leaves.

How to make Larb

  1. Begin by making the khao kua (toasted rice), in a frying pan on low heat without oil. Toast the rice until it turns golden yellow-brown and starts smelling fragrant.
  2. Pound the rice once it’s cool to a coarse powder.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan and fry the minced pork until it’s cooked and add the toasted rice powder into the pork while tossing chili flakes, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice.
  4. Give the pork and the seasoning a quick stir and add the shallots and mint leaves into the saucepan with the pork.
  5. Mix until all the spices and seasoning are well incorporated.

Garnish it with some more mint leaves or basil if necessary and enjoy with sticky rice.

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