Most of the world knows pork larb as a Thai dish but, if we’re to be politically correct, it originates from Laos where it is called pork laab.
For brevity, the dish is referred to as pork larb in this blog because that it the name by which it is more popularly known globally.
What is this dish? It is sweet-tangy-salty-spicy minced pork with khao koor (ground toasted sticky rice), basil, mint and chili traditionally served with sticky rice.
What do you need to cook pork larb? Here’s a list.
Ground pork with at least twenty per cent fat. The meat browns in the rendered fat to give it better flavor. Excess rendered fat soaks up the crunchy toasted rice for even more flavor.
Sticky (glutinous) rice is a special variety of rice. The grains are whiter and more opaque. The grains are toasted until browned then ground until sandy in appearance. This is what gives larb a lovely crunch with every mouthful.
The sauce is a combination of fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar. I use a 2:2:1 ratio but feel free to find your own flavor balance.
Chili flakes are available in most Asian groceries. Korean groceries rarely run out of the stuff. And that’s what we use at home. Korean chili flakes which aren’t as hot as others but actually rather sweet with a subtle smokiness.
Shallots are small onions but just because an onion is small doesn’t automatically make it a shallot. The most telling characteristic of the shallot is that, like garlic, a single bulb contains two or more cloves or segments. The skin can be reddish, brownish or grayish.
The default greens are Thai basil and mint. We used a combination of Thai and purple basil (because the latter was just begging to be harvested), and spearmint.
Pork Larb (Laab)Recipe by
- 2 to 3 tablespoons uncooked sticky rice
- 250 grams ground pork with at least 20% fat
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chili flakes depending on how hot you want your pork larb
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar
- 2 shallots peeled and thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup finely sliced scallions (optional)
- 5 sprigs mint stripped and stems discarded
- 5 sprigs Thai basil stripped and stems discarded
- 2 bird’s eye chilies finely sliced (optional)
- In an oil-free pan, toast the rice over high heat until browned.
- Grind the toasted rice with a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor until sandy (not flour-y) in appearance.
- Spread the ground pork in an oil-free pan and cook until lightly browned underneath.
- Stir, breaking up any lumps, and cook until fat has been rendered and the meat is uniformly browned.
- Add the chili flakes and stir.
- Add the ground rice and stir.
- Stir together the fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar, pour over the pork and mix well.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir the pork to cool slightly.
- Add the sliced shallots (and scallions, if using) and toss well.
- Add the Thai basil and mint and toss until evenly distributed.
- Optionally, top with sliced bird's eye chilies before serving.