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Isan-Inspired Larb

Photo: Oxmoor House


Hands-on time 25 mins
Total time 30 mins
Yield Serves 4 (serving size: 3 1/4 cups)
Larb has its origins in laos, though variations of the dish--basically a minced meat salad--have been popularized from northeast thailand, known as the isan region, down through bangkok. This version makes use of what should be commonly available in your food market. Feel free to ramp up the chiles if you like a less restrained salad. The Isan people would smile upon you.


  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons jasmine rice, uncooked
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 ounces ground pork
  • 1 cup minced white mushrooms
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 3 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 shallots, very thinly sliced
  • 3 Thai bird chiles, minced
  • 2 cups napa (chinese) cabbage chiffonade
  • 1/2 cup green onions cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup green beans trimmed and cut thinly on the bias
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and cut julienne
  • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves
  • 1 bunch Thai basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon Thai-style crushed chiles
  • 2 Key limes, cut "seviche-style"

Nutrition Information

  • calories 257
  • fat 10 g
  • satfat 2.6 g
  • monofat 3.3 g
  • polyfat 2.4 g
  • protein 23 g
  • carbohydrate 20 g
  • fiber 3 g
  • cholesterol 68 mg
  • iron 3 mg
  • sodium 607 mg
  • calcium 89 mg

How to Make It

  1. Using the side of a chef's knife, mash the sugar and the garlic to a fine paste. Set aside.


  3. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet to medium-high. Let heat for a minute before adding the dry rice to the pan.

  4. Toast the rice in the pan, stirring periodically. As you stir the rice, you'll find the hot spots in your pan, and smell varying degrees of toastiness. A slightly uneven toast will make for a more complex final dish. A slight char on a few grains isn't a bad thing.

  5. Transfer the toasted rice to the bowl of a small food processor.

  6. Pulse until the rice grains are the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Alternatively, you can hand-crush the rice with a mortar and pestle.


  8. Wipe the pan you cooked the rice in with a paper towel, and bring it back to the heat. Medium-high.

  9. Spray the pan evenly with cooking spray.

  10. Add the ground pork. Cook until nearly crisp.

  11. Leave the fat in the pan. Add the minced mushrooms.

  12. Cook the mushrooms until they have browned and the majority of the moisture has been reduced. Add the turkey.

  13. Stir the meat and mushroom mixture in between surface brownings: essentially, let the bottom layer crisp up a bit (about 4 minutes), then stir like mad.

  14. Repeat the process twice more, or until the meat mixture is the perfect blend of crisp and moist. Tasting the mixture along the way will help with determining doneness.

  15. Turn off the heat.


  17. Transfer the meat mixture to a mixing bowl.

  18. Add the garlic paste, the lime juice, the fish sauce, the shallots, and the minced chiles. Combine and let rest at room temperature.

  19. Toss in half of the ground toasted rice. Reserve the rest for garnishing.


  21. Combine the napa cabbage, the green onions, the green beans, and the cucumbers in a mixing bowl. Toss evenly.

  22. Grab a good-looking platter.

  23. Lay the cabbage mixture on the base of the platter.

  24. Now, getting back to the meat mixture, check for temperature. Just beyond room temperature is perfect for this dish. If it is so, toss in the mint leaves, the thai basil, and the cilantro.

  25. Pour the meat mixture over the cabbage "salad."

  26. Garnish with more toasted rice, a sprinkling of crushed chiles, and the Key limes.

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