Easy & Healthy Larb Salad
Larb salad is a traditional Laos meat salad that can be made with chicken, pork, lamb or beef. Larb is also served in Northern Thailand. Larb salad is served with fresh herbs and a dressing made with lime, fish sauce and a touch of sugar. This salad is traditionally made with toasted, ground sticky rice. My recipe uses toasted ground peanuts instead, which a traditionalist would surely be horrified by, but for me, peanuts are easily accessible in the U.S and they give the meat salad a texture similar to what is achieved with toasted ground sticky rice.
Larb makes for a great Salad-For-Dinner, my nominclature for any salad that is hearty enough for a one-dish meal. Larb salad is quick enough for a week night meal and leftovers make an amazing not-sad lunch for the next day.
Larb Salad is Versatile
The beauty of Larb salad is you can make it with virtually any ground protein - chicken, pork, fish or beef. I've made this recipe with both ground chicken and lamb, but a variety of ground protein will also work. I add a variety of garnishes including cucumber, julienned bell peppers, cucumber slices and fresh herbs.
I serve larb as a composed salad.
As lettuce wraps. See my post on How to Prepare Iceberg Lettuce Wraps to learn how to free the leafs from the lettuce core. If you enjoy lettuce wraps you may also like these recipes:
- Chicken and Mango Lettuce Wraps
- Pineapple and Pork Lettuce Wraps
- Turkey and Cranberry Lettuce Wraps
- Turkey, Wild Rice and Black Rice Salad
And I like to pack Larb salad into a big mason jar to take for lunch the next day. Put the dressing on the bottom of the jar, then the meat and then layer in the cabbage, fruit and vegetables. When you are ready to eat, turn the mason jar upside down and give it a hake to dress the salad. If you want to learn how to cut limes Thai-style check out my post here. Thai-style lime wedges look very cute in this larb salad. You will find they are very practical for squeezing too!
Easy Larb Salad
Yield 6 Servings
My version of Laotian Larb salad has been modified for access to readily available ingredients in the U.S. It is an intensely flavorful salad that uses Thai sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter flavors to create a delicious salad that stands alone as a complete meal. Serve as a tossed salad, as lettuce wraps or pack in mason jars for lunch.
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 3 T fish sauce
- 1 1/2 T brown sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the meat:
- 1 cup roasted salted peanuts
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1" piece of peeled ginger, sliced in four pieces
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 shallot, peeled and cut in quarters
- 1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and separated
- 1 Thai or serrano chile, plus more for garnish
- 2 pounds ground chicken, lamb, beef or pork
- 1 T olive oil
For the salad and lettuce wraps:
You can serve larb with a variety of salad ingredients. Here are some ideas:
- Boston or iceberg lettuce if serving in lettuce cups
- Romaine or Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
- Cucumber slices
- Mango chunks
- Fresh mint
- Fresh basil, Thai basil if you can get it
- Red pepper, julienned
- Fresh lime for garnish
For the dressing:
- In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Gradually whisk in the olive oil to create an emulsion. Set aside.
For the meat:
- Put the peanuts in the food processor and whirl until they are the texture of rough cornmeal. Remove and set aside.
- Peel the lemongrass and slice into thin pieces and put in the food processor. Add the ginger, garlic, shallot and process until finely minced. Add half the cilantro, including stems and leaves as well as the chile and process again.
- Using your hands mix the ground meat, 3/4 cup ground peanuts and lemongrass mixture together in a bowl.
- Add half of the dressing to the meat mixture and combine with your hands. Set the remaining dressing aside.
- Heat a skillet, add 1 T olive oil and when it begins to shimmer add the meat mixture. Cook the mixture until done, about 7 - 10 minutes.
To serve lettuce wrap style:
- Scoop the cooked meat mixture into lettuce wrap cups and serve with remaining dressing, remaining peanuts, cucumber slices, fresh mint and basil, diced mango, julienned red pepper or whatever fresh garnishes you prefer.
To serve salad style:
- Put the lettuce or cabbage in a shallow serving bowl, top with cooked meat mixture and garnish with remaining peanuts, cucumber slices, fresh mint and basil, diced mango, julienned red pepper or whatever fresh garnishes you prefer. Toss with remaining dressing and serve.
To serve to-go lunch style:
Put dressing in bottom of a mason jar, followed by cooked meat, garnishes and lettuce or cabbage. Cover with a lid and refrigerate until ready to serve. Turn mason jar upside down and give it a good shake to dress the salad.
Courses Dinner, Lunch