Imagine a Thai lettuce wrap! If you haven’t had Larb (also known as Laab & Laap), you must try it. Larb is pronounced “lawb” and that means salad, but it’s not a vegetable salad, instead it’s a meat salad.
Larb is spicy, refreshing and quick to prepare! There are many ways of preparing Larb depending on the region, so my recipe, I’m sure, is just one of many. Sometimes the meat mixture is simply eaten on a plate along with sticky rice. but I prefer to scoop the mixture into Napa cabbage leaves; they make a perfect transport vessels for the ground meat. Romaine lettuce leave would work as well. Just want a lettuce that is sturdy and crisp.
When it comes to this Thai street food, Thai larb is most frequently made with minced pork, but ground chicken, beef, duck, turkey, or even fish, all work well. I typically use ground beef. So pick your protein of choice for this recipe! Once the meat is cooked, it is flavored with fish sauce, lime juice and fresh herbs.
Traditional Thai larb rarely uses fresh chilies, but I like to add in a couple fresh Thai chiles. This is totally optional. Larb traditionally uses only dry ground chile flakes, known as prik bon, to give it some color and heat.
My recipe calls for one diced shallot. If you are shopping at a Thai market, definitely use Thai shallots for the recipe. They are smaller than the standard shallots, about the size of a large grape. So if using Thai shallots, use 3 – 4 small shallots. If you have bigger shallots just use however much you want. One large shallot is usually good.
Taste test. See if it needs more fish sauce for saltiness, lime juice, or chile flakes. I always wind up tweaking a little at the end, adding a dash more lime juice here, or sprinkle of more chile flakes there.
Spicy Thai Lettuce Wrap (Larb)
- 1 lb ground beef turkey, pork, or chicken
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1-2 thai peppers finely diced or 1/4 tbsp red pepper flakes or more if you want more kick
- 1 small diced shallot optional
- 1-2 sliced Scallions green onions
- 1-2 whole fresh limes - juiced
- 3 sprigs mint or basil optional
- 1 tbsp toasted rice or sesame seeds optional
- 1 head Napa cabbage smaller leaves are better
Place the ground meat of choice into a bowl. Squeeze juice from 1/2 of a lime on to the ground meat. Mix well and let it marinade for just a couple of minutes until you are ready to cook it.
Heat up a pan on high until it is very hot. Add two tablespoons of water and then immediately add your marinated turkey/beef or pork and stir. The meat might stick to the pan at first, but then the juice will come out and the meat will loosen from the bottom. Keep stirring until the meat is well done.
Put the meat in a large mixing bowl that will hold all the ingredients. Add fish sauce, shallot, green onion, the rest of the lime juice, hot peppers or red chili pepper flakes and almost all of toasted rice/sesame seeds into the bowl. Save some toasted rice/sesame seeds to sprinkle on top for garnish. Mix well and taste. It should be a little bit hot. If you want it hotter, add more chile flakes. You should be able to taste tartness from the lime juice and the fish sauce. If you need to add more fish sauce or lime juice, don't be afraid. Taste test to make sure your larb is balanced the way you like it.
Put the mixed ingredients in a serving bowl, garnish with spearmint or basil and sprinkle the rest of toasted rice on top. Serve with Napa cabbage for scooping the mixture into. Serve with lime wedges and thai peppers.