All you need is ‘larb’: Thai without the carbs

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I’m not going to lie, I’ve been hitting that Thai buzz like a madman recently. I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t started cooking Thai earlier – delicious, filling, ridiculously easy and (relatively) cheap to make, it’s almost too good to be true.

Well, probably because it is a little too good to be true. Like most Asian cuisines, the sole downfall of Thai food is the heavy presence of carbohydrates, with most dishes reliant on rice or noodles. For a food-loving, weight-watching millennial such as myself, that simply won’t do.

Fortunately, there are a handful of dishes that boast all the intricacies of the Thai palate in a healthy, wholesome and carb-free manner. Larb, or pork mince salad, is one of them. Packing a powerful protein punch and an abundance of greens, it’s a great way to get your Thai fix without the obligation of pounding away at the treadmill afterwards.

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Let’s get started then!

Switch it up

The recipe I followed (linked below) gets you started with cooking the meat straight away, but as some sage commenters have pointed out, it’s probably a better idea to switch the order around so you make the larb dressing first and cook the meat last. This way you won’t be forced to leave the cooked meat sitting and getting soggy (and later have to reheat it) while you prep the dressing.

To make the dressing, mix the lime juice, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce and lime zest together in a bowl until it is a nice, consistent mixture. As you can imagine, it gives off a pretty weird, if not obnoxious, scent at this stage – but don’t worry, as the pork will take care of that later on.

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Hmm.

Next, chop up your lemongrass, chilli, onion, mint and coriander so they’re all ready to go.

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Much better vibes from this lot.

Cooking the meat

Now it’s time to cook the meat itself. Heat some peanut oil in a wok or large frying pan and add the pork mince, lemongrass and chilli. Fry for a few minutes until the meat is completely cooked through, making sure you’re constantly breaking it up into smaller lumps.

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This little piggy went straight into the frying pan.

Putting it all together

Once the meat is done, take the pan off the heat and let it sit to cool for a few minutes. In my opinion, getting the temperature of the meat right is key with larb – you want it neither searing hot nor cold and damp; just ensure there’s enough fire left in it to hug your tastebuds with its warm embrace.

Put the cooled meat into a large bowl and combine with the onion, coriander, mint and the larb dressing you made earlier, then whisk together thoroughly with your hands. To serve, scoop the mixture onto some baby cos lettuce leaves and sprinkle some crushed roasted peanuts on top for a finishing touch.

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Oh boy.

The end result

Larb is all about the dressing – get it right and it’s virtually impossible to mess up the dish. The unique mix of the sauces, juices and rind breathe life into an otherwise bland batch of cooked pork, lending it its distinctive aromas and flavours.

Top tips

  • Not really much I can offer here, as this dish is so straightforward. Just cook and enjoy!
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Dubious Trivia #142: ‘Larb’ is Thai for ‘leafy pocket of joy’.

Recipe from Taste.com.au.

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