Spicy Green Mango

--Living and eating with a dash of whimsy and a sprinkling of spice--

  • I'm a budding food-tographer turned blogger who's insanely passionate about food..real food...the kind that sprouts from the earth and you have to wash it to eat it. Yes, hearty real food. I live to eat and I eat to live and am loving every bit of it! If you're here, then I suppose we share the same passion! Enjoy!

Posted by Spicy Green Mango 14 comments

This past weekend, my family celebrated our Lao New Year.  As with ALL celebrations in my household, home-cooked food was the star of the evening.  As a symbolic gesture of prosperity, my mom made her famous Lao beef salad, otherwise known as larb (also spelled & pronounced laab and rhymes with the automaker Saab, get it?)  Should the country of Laos have a national dish, larb would definitely be the one b/c by definition, larb means good fortune, so oftentimes, you may hear of it referred to as the 'good fortune salad.' 

There's many variations on this dish and you can certainly prepare it with minced chicken, pork, fish or even rare steak, but my mom chose grilled beef this time around.  And since I will jump at any opportunity to take my tastebuds out for a joy ride, this dish ranks among my favorite and immediately stirs up images of piping hot sticky rice cooked in traditional bamboo steamers ready to take a dip in a savory salad of minced beef loaded with the tanginess of lime, spiciness of red Thai bird chilis, freshness of mint/cilantro/kaffir lime leaves and nuttiness of toasted rice powder.  Oh, and did I mention that larb is also best eaten with your personal tongs (and by that, I'm talking about your itty bitty fingers, folks).  Use the ball of sticky rice to scoop it up in one mouthful and trust me, your host/esses will be so impressed with you, your odds of getting invited back for another home-cooked meal will have increased substantially.  Well, okay--it would definitely be the case in my house, but hey, I'm also quite easy to impress. 

So, let's get 'grubbin!

Lao Beef {Larb} Salad Recipe:
Feeds 4-5 adults with inflatable bellies or 1 of me..haha! J/K. But really, if you're going to make larb, you better invite some friends, food bloggers, co-workers or the dorky guy in the next cubicle over b/c it's no fun eating alone.   

1-1/2 pounds lean beef steak or sirloin (extra lean is even better)

1 teaspoon salt
2 tbs toasted sticky rice powder
5-8 sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped (and 3 more sprigs reserved for garnish)
1/4 cup of bean sprouts (for garnish)
2 green onions, finely chopped
5-8 sprigs of mint, coarsely chopped (and 3 more sprigs reserved for garnish)
5 kaffir limes leaves, finely chopped or minced
5-8 sprigs of Vietnamese coriander
2 slices of galanga, minced
1/2 stalks lemongrass, outer peel removed, trimmed, and minced
2-6 Thai bird chili peppers, thinly sliced (remember, you control the heat intensity)
1 tsp of red pepper, dried & crushed
2-4 tbs fish sauce (measure according to taste)
1 large lime, juiced

And if you're feeling adventurous and authentic, add in:
1-2 tbs of fermented fish sauce (padek sauce or Laotian ambrosia in my home :)
1/4 cup of beef tripe, cooked & thinly sliced

Cooking the Beef:
1.Grill beef for 6-7 minutes on medium heat/flame OR until it is medium to almost well-done. Transfer meat to a cutting board and and let rest for about 5-10 minutes to seal in the juices.  Never cut into meat right after you cook it b/c you'll lose all the natural juices.
2. Thinly slice the beef, making sure you're against the grain
3. Finely chop or mince the beef and then...

Mixing the Larb:
4. Add in the toasted rice powder, herbs and spices, crushed dried red pepper,{fermented} fish sauce and lime juice.
5. Toss the salad and season well according to your personal taste.  Experiment with adding more (or less) of any ingredient to accomodate your tastebuds.  Remember, the flavor combo you're seeking is: spicy/tangy/salty/YUMMERS!

Of course with any culinary creations, you want to feast with your eyes first, so top your salad with fresh cilantro, mint and bean sprouts.

The dish is best eaten with a cheesy smile alongside other foodies, warm sticky rice, green Thai eggplants, crispy cucumbers, lettuce and/or Chinese long green beans.

And some images from Lao New Year at the temple.  


14 Responses

  1. Peggy says:

    this looks so delicious!

  2. Liren says:

    Happy New Year! I've never been lucky to have Larb before, but it looks like JUST the type of dish I would love. And there's something about eating with your hands that adds to the experience. I'm always chastising my daughter for not using her utensils, but I have to agree that things taste better when you eat with your hands. I remember growing up and getting to eat "kamayan' (with hands) with Filipino food sometimes, and it was so fun!

  3. I am so excited to have found this blog! I recently spent some time in SE Asia and fell in love with Laos. I've been looking for some recipes of the foods I ate, particularly Larb. I need to try this.

    I do have a question though. If I were to go into a market (I'm in LA so there are tons of Vietnamese and Thai markets) to purchase rice for sticky rice, what would I be looking for? I love how you can just grab it and ball it up.

  4. @ Peggy: Drool away!
    @ Liren: Thank you! Yes, eating with your hands used to be frowned upon, but now it's a way of embracing the cultural origins of the food and paying homage to our roots, so if your daughter wants to plunger her finger in that cake batter...do it!

    @Baking Barrister: If you go into any Asian grocer, you would look for the bag of rice labeled: "sweet rice," or "glutinous rice." The best ones are exported from Thailand. I just got back from the store and can confirm this for you. Steer clear of any bags that say jasmine rice as this isn't the one you'd want for this dish, although there's nothing wrong with eating it with jasmine. Food is all about personal preference, so you do what makes you happy!

  5. The Lee's says:

    My friend found this blog and forwarded it to me. I love it! I am Lao too (but can't really cook any Lao food at all!) I enjoy reading your recipes! Do you have the ingredients/recipe on how to make the noodles for the lao chicken noodle soup (kaw piek)?

  6. I absolutely love your descriptions of the food! I've never had Lao, but I sure feel like I have an idea of what it's like after reading what you wrote. You really have a future as a food blogger. Can't wait to taste test our way through Chicago. :)

  7. This looks so good. I have never tried making larb at home, but I think it is such a colorful and tasty dish. Lovely photos.

  8. @The Lees: I'm working on the getting the measurements replicated properly and the weather's been chilly, so I'm going to get that in next week:) Thanks! I love khao piek, too!

    @littlebgator: Love ya and your sweet remarks. Yes on Chicago and thank you for getting my spork and bib ready!

    @HF: Colorful indeed and it tastes just as great as it looks! :)

  9. Marie says:

    Sounds amazing. I am salivating as we speak. I haven't had larb much, but I love all these flavors. Toasted rice powder sounds really intriguing.

  10. Souavarat says:

    Sabaidee pbee mai! I love your blog! Way to represent yourself through your love of food. I am thoroughly captivated by the gorgeous pictures and wonderful descriptions of the food and recipes. Your mother's laab looks amazing. It looks just like my dad's and how he makes his laab. I know what's going to be for dinner tonight. Thanks for the great blog and thank you for representing Lao food as well.

  11. Divina Pe says:

    Lovely food photos and they're making me hungry. This is great for summer, really refreshing yet flavorful.

  12. Brad says:

    Yumm I could eat a few helpings of that cuz I need all the luck I can get and it looks so tasty!

  13. Thank you for the lovely comments everyone! It really does bring a smile to my face to know that my love for food is so contagious--in a good way, of course!

  14. Padaek says:

    The photos on your website are amazing! Really enjoy reading your blog, in particular your Lao recipes. Keep up the great work. :)

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