Laab (Spicy Pork Salad)

Thai cuisine/dish

Laab (Spicy Pork Salad)

I got to learn of this dish from a Thai girl, whom I was once roommates with. We ended up being enemies, haha … oh well, that’s life. It is a popular meat salad dish in Thailand, originating from Laos and Isan (Northeast Thailand). I like the simplicity and flexibility of the recipe, being able to serve it as a side dish (salad) or main dish. I usually like to eat this as a main dish. Instead of pork, ground chicken or beef can be used.

I have not cooked this dish for almost 2 years now. Partly because it was difficult finding one of the ingredients, ‘roasted rice powder’, here in Houston. Last weekend, my hubby took me grocery shopping at an Asian supermarket outside of Chinatown and voila! I found it!

Although, when I first cooked this dish after learning the recipe, I discovered that I did not like the method of cooking the raw meat itself.  To me, adding water and boiling the meat at high heat did not completely remove the gammy smell of raw pork in the cooked dish. Perhaps, I am more sensitive to to this because of influences from my mother’s cooking (and recently, my mother-in-law’s). They have taught me techniques to create better tasting dishes, especially when red meat is involved. Therefore, I did some tweaking to this recipe for my personal preference. The original taste has not changed … if anything, it is an improvement as the gammy meat smell is removed in the aftertaste.

Ingredients (Serving for two):

3/4 lb ground pork

Four limes (or more as needed)

1 large roughly chopped shallot (or more as needed)

Fresh mint leaves

2-3 teaspoons of red pepper powder (crushed chilli pepper flakes works too)

2 teaspoons of roasted rice powder

Fish sauce

Olive cooking oil or Canola oil

Water (as needed)

Instructions

1. Heat about 3 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wide, shallow pot on high heat. Add in the ground pork and stir fry.

My mother-in-law once taught me to fry the meat until there was no raw, gammy smell. Basically, it means having the meat cooked thoroughly. A simple trick is to tilt the pot a little and push the meat up to see if there are still ‘meat juices’. You can differentiate the meat juice from the oil, as the juice is watery in texture. Or, you can use your good sense of smell. The goal is to boil off most of the meat juice, which will take away the gammy smell of raw meat in the cooked dish. It is important to do this first before adding any other ingredients!

I also learned that traditionally, this recipe calls for the meat to be slightly undercooked. I would not recommend this for the safety of your health.

2. Add in shallots, and stir fry with the meat for about 1 minute. You can add more shallots as needed to increase the flavour of the dish – don’t be afraid!

3. Add in lime juice, red/chilli pepper, and mint leaves. Stir fry well, and at this point you can lower the heat a little. If you are a heat seeker … feel free to add more red/chilli pepper!

4. Add 1-2 teaspoons of fish sauce (or to taste). Continue to stir fry for a couple minutes more and you’re ready to serve.

5. If you prefer your dish to be more watery/gravy-like in texture, you can add a little bit of water in the step above. Although, my advice is to add more lime juice so that the taste won’t be diluted.

6. Serve with leaves of green lettuce and rice sticks/vermicelli. I usually eat this like a wrap, putting the meat and vermicelli on the leaf, and wrapping it up to take a bite!

You can also eat it with sticky rice (glutinous rice) or sushi rice (short grain rice). Enjoy!

 

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