Dish of the Week: Larb (Thai Minced Pork Salad)

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re covering a specialty from Southeast Asia: larb.

Larb (also written as laab, laap, larp or lahb) is a traditional minced meat salad that is popular in Lao and Thai cuisine. Most likely having originated in Laos, the dish is widely considered to be the unofficial national dish of the country.

While pork is the most common variety—chicken, beef, duck, fish and even mushrooms can be the star. The minced meat is commonly combined with finely ground, toasted rice and flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, ground chile peppers, and fresh herbs like mint. The sweet, spicy, and sour mixture is served at room temperature aside lettuce leaves, raw vegetable accouterments and sticky rice.

In northern Thailand, larb is usually not the sweet and sour kind you find elsewhere. Instead of fish sauce and lime, the mixture is flavored with warm spices like cumin, anise, cloves, ground chiles and cinnamon. According to "Andy Ricker of Pok Pok Explains Thai Laab,” this is likely the cause of Thailand’s Lanna Kingdom being one of the spice routes to China.

This pork laab recipe, from Saveur, originally comes from chef Hong Thaimee of the Ngam Thai Restaurant in New York City. A mixture of fish sauce, fresh herbs, Thai chiles and spices like Chinese five spice, nutmeg and cardamom ensure every bite is a burst with flavor. Serve it with lettuce leaves and sticky rice.


Ingredients serves 2 – 4
1?3 cup canola oil
3 tbsp. mashed garlic
4 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced
10 oz. ground pork
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. kosher salt
1?4 tsp. ground black pepper
1?4 tsp. ground coriander
1?4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tbsp. minced mint, plus more to garnish
1 tbsp. minced scallions, plus more to garnish
1 tbsp. minced cilantro, plus more to garnish
2 tsp. fish sauce
Thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, shallots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes to garnish
For serving: sticky rice and lettuce leaves


Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chiles, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add pork, chile flakes, five-spice, nutmeg, salt, pepper, coriander, and cardamom, and cook, stirring, until pork is browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in mint, scallions, cilantro, and fish sauce, and cook until pork is done, about 4 minutes.

Transfer to a large serving bowl, and top with scallions, cilantro, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, shallots, mint, cilantro, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Serve at room temperature alongside sticky rice and lettuce wraps.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano