Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Larb Gai- Laotian Meat Salad Recipe- Frugal, Paleo, and Vegan Options
I really appreciate traditional recipes from around the world, especially when they use healthy, cheap ingredients that I can get easily.
I mentioned to someone how much I love gizzards, that I even wrote a whole manifesto about them, and a friend mentioned to me that if I want a great gizzards recipe, I should try out Laotian chicken larb (also called laab), a delicious meat salad, that is a wonderful way to use gizzards.
For someone who eats food from around the world, and has a special affinity for all different types of Asian cuisine, I had never eaten any dish from Laos before, but certainly was not let down.
I won't say that this is an authentic larb recipe, as I did make a few changes to the recipe to make it more frugal, using the ingredients I can easily get locally (fresh lemongrass is nearly impossible to obtain where I live, and limes are very expensive, not to mention only available for a short period of time each year), and to make it Paleo.
The traditional version is made with khaa khua- toasted ground sticky rice to thicken it, but I left that out, also because it isn't Paleo, but also because it isn't an ingredient that is easy to get locally. Apparently this toasted ground sticky rice is a very important ingredient in the recipe- all recipes emphasize not to skip this... but I did. It was so delicious without it that I can say it isn't necessary for it to taste great, however if you have access to this ingredient, or want to make your own, and aren't on a diet that forbids rice, then by all means, add a tablespoon of it to your recipe.
Fish sauce is traditionally used, but I used coconut aminos instead. Feel free to use soy sauce or coconut aminos or fish sauce, whatever works for you.
I used dried herbs in mine, but fresh is even better if you have them available.
Larb often is eaten over lettuce or other greens--I ate mine with foraged wild greens, but it can also be served over rice, generally short grained and/or with chopped raw vegetables.
It is unlike anything I ever tasted before, as soy sauce/coconut aminos, mint, cilantro, ginger, and lemon juice are not ingredients I generally think to combine in my house, but it was amazing, and I've made it many times since.
You can make this with any cooked meat, pretty much. Ground chicken or beef crumbles, gizzards (chicken or turkey), cooked chicken breast, meat removed from chicken frames after boiling them for soup, deboned whole chicken, etc... Pork is often used as well.
For a vegan version, you can use any types of chopped sauted mushrooms in place of the meat.
2 cups cooked, boneless or deboned poultry or beef (gizzards are my favorite) or equivalent amount of chopped, cooked mushrooms
3-4 tablespoons lemon/lime juice
1 tablespoons coconut aminos, soy sauce, or fish sauce
1 teaspoon dried lemon grass
1 small minced onion
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon dried or fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried or fresh cilantro
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon khao khua/roasted sticky rice powder (optional)
Leafy greens salad- foraged or store bought
1. Chop up and/or shred your meat as necessary, or cook your mushrooms. If using ground meat crumbles, break up into small pieces. If using other types of meat, shred with either your hands or a fork.
2. Chop up your onions into small pieces. Mine your garlic and your ginger finely.
3. If using dried lemon grass, try to cut the pieces as small as possible, so there aren't any large, hard chunks.
4. Add all the ingredients together in a bowl, mixing well, then salting to taste.
5. Let marinate for at least half an hour or more. This is especially important if using dried lemongrass, as it gives it time to soften before eating.
6. Serve over greens, rice, or fresh chopped vegetables.
Have you ever had or heard of larb before? If you've had it, what was it made from?
Does this seem like a recipe you'd enjoy?
If you've cooked Laotian cuisine, do you have any specific recipes you'd suggest trying out?