We have been traveling at a break-neck pace through Asia these past few months and I now have food from Laos to share with you.
We opted to make Larb, a spicy mixture of marinated meat with greens and herbs, which is considered the national dish of Laos. It can be made with almost any kind of minced meat (and is sometimes eaten raw although we most definitely cooked ours) flavoured with fish sauce, lime, and chili. The dish is served with sticky rice, ground toasted rice, and a variety of raw vegetables.
Larb is really tasty and easy to make and something that I will definitely cook again as a quick summer meal that is different than a regular salad. I wasn't sure I had used the right kind of lettuce as Romaine didn't seem very Laotian, but I didn't know what else to use and the boat shaped leaves worked well to load up with rice, larb, and vegetables and use as a wrap.
By the way, I based my version of Larb on recipes found here, here, here, and here.
vegetable oil for cooking
2 lbs ground chicken or pork
1 stalk lemon grass
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 red onion or 2 shallots, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I used lemon juice as some of us don't like lime)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 red chilies (optional)
2 tablespoons ground toasted rice powder
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
ground toasted rice powder
(please ignore the red and orange bell peppers as they were my own addition and are not mentioned in any of the recipes I read - I just like them and thought they would taste good with Larb ... and they did)
To make ground toasted rice powder:
1. Place about 1/3 cup of uncooked sticky rice in a dry frying pan or wok and cook over medium heat shaking frequently and stirring.
2. The rice is done when it looks toasted and lightly browned.
3. Grind the toasted rice in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle into a fine powder.
1. Cook ground meat until it is no longer pink.
2. Add the lemon grass, green onions, red onions, ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and chilies (if using) just as the meat is finishing.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of the ground toasted rice powder and toss and add more as needed so the meat is not runny.
4. Taste and add more fish sauce, lime juice, or chili flakes as desired.
5. Serve meat at room temperature with the rice and vegetables.
P.S. You should read this interesting post for details on all the different spellings of Larb, Lab, Laab, Lahb etc