Thursday, February 22, 2007

Laab (updated!)

Laab is a type of salad made from ground meat (usually pork, chicken, duck or even tripe) and fresh herbs. Some Thai restaurants in America serve this dish semi-wet, but actually it’s supposed to be fairly dry, which makes it perfect for eating with sticky rice.

Photo added December 2008. Serve laab with cabbage leaves, lettuce leaves or Thai sticky rice.

This dish was adapted from a Thai cookbook (see right sidebar)I purchased at Costco. The book has beautiful pictures, but I didn’t have high expectations for the recipes. That’s because it was cheap and I’m always comparing recipes with mom’s home cooking. However, the few recipes I’ve tried are very good and this is definitely a keeper.

  • 1 tbs Thai glutinous or jasmine rice
  • 10 oz pork or chicken, coarsely ground*
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, whites only, finely sliced
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbs finely chopped mint, more to taste
  • ¼ tsp palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • salt, lime juice and fish sauce to taste

Toast the rice in a pan until it’s brown. Then use a mortar and pestle to grind it to the consistency of kosher salt, and set aside.

Combine the ground meat with the lime juice and fish sauce. Using a blazing hot pan (such as a cast iron wok), heat about 1 tbs vegetable oil and stir fry the meat until the juices are evaporated. I know this seems like a strange way to start, but it actually works to keep the dish dry while flavoring the meat. Remove from heat and let it sit for a few minutes to cool. Drain away any cooking liquid before mixing the cooked meat with the spices. Adjust seasoning with salt, lime juice and fish sauce if desired. Sprinkle with ground rice, to taste.

*I find that pre-ground meat is often too “wet” so when I cook it, even in a blazing hot wok, it will release juices and won’t brown properly. I prefer to grind the meat myself. That way I can use the cut of meat I want and I can get the texture I want. It’s easy to do; you’ll only need a super sharp kitchen knife. Dice the meat into small cubes, then chop like you would parsley. Stop when you get the desired texture. Alternatively, you could put the diced meat in a food processor and pulse a few times, until you get the desired texture. For this dish, pork butt or skinless, boneless thigh meat are best because they are just fatty enough, but leaner cuts of meat will work fine. I do not recommend beef.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i love Laab and this is a less complicated recipe than i have used in the past. i agree, chop the meat yourself, most ground pork is like a paste.

love your recipes, good home Thai cooking, just like my friends taught me.