When I was eighteen, I spent my gap year travelling around south east Asia (cue eye roll) and came across larb – also spelt larp or laab – in Laos. I had never heard of it before but, as it was a regional speciality, I ordered it and absolutely ADORED it. Laab is a kind of meat salad usually made with minced pork, which is packed full of fresh, zingy flavour, thanks to lots of fresh lime juice, shallots, chilli and fresh mint. Those who know me will know that I’m a sucker for a bit of zing so I couldn’t wait to recreate it at home. My version of larb may or may not be 100% traditional – many recipes add toasted rice for extra nuttiness, some add lemon grass and many don’t use garlic – but this is how I make mine. It’s super acidic, fresh and delicious and, like all my recipes, really easy to make.
I always serve mine with white rice as that’s how it was served in Laos and it tastes best (in my opinion). But if you want to be healthier, it would also work with brown rice or some people like to go super healthy with it and serve it in little gem lettuce cups…but that’s a no from me hun.
Laotian-inspired easy pork larb
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
oil (veg, sunflower or rapeseed)
500g pork mince
2 large banana (echalion) shallots (or approx 150g shallots), finely sliced
3 limes, juiced, plus 1 extra to serve, if you like [it’s already super limey, so you probably don’t need the extra unless your limes are tiny or you like things even more zingy than I do]
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed in a garlic crusher
1-2 red chillies (depends how spicy they are/how much spice you like!)
½ tsp sugar (caster sugar or light brown sugar)
bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
240g basmati rice, to serve
- In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Add in most of the chopped red chilli (saving a handful aside for sprinkling over later), half of the chopped fresh herbs (saving the other half aside for later) and all of the finely sliced shallots. Stir to combine.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan. Add the pork mince, the garlic and a pinch of salt. Fry on a medium heat, breaking the meat up with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula, for around 5-8 mins until cooked through but not browned (you want it soft, not crispy). Turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
- While the pork is frying, cook your rice in boiling water following pack instructions.
- Once the pork has cooled slightly (around 5 mins), use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to the bowl with the lime juice, shallots etc. Stir to combine.
- To serve, divide the rice between four bowls, then top each with the pork mix. Scatter each over a handful of extra chopped herbs and more chilli (if you like) and, if you like, a handful of crispy fried shallots is also a nice touch (but not essential). If you like things super limey, serve an extra lime on the side for squeezing over as you see fit.