July 20, 2012

Larb (Lao beef salad)

Larb on a large serving plate.

I've never been to Laos and I never had Larb until I made this dish. When I saw this recipe amongst others I knew that a plate of Larb was in our future. 

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I love Thai food, and pretty much all Asian food that I've tried, so I knew I would enjoy the flavors of this Lao dish. From my brief research, it seems like this is the national dish of Laos and each region has variations on the herbs and accompaniments. 
Beef is the traditional meat, but you could also make this with ground turkey, chicken, or even pork if you prefer. 

I liked this meal because it was fun to eat. I served it with a side of Jasmine rice, sliced cucumbers, lettuce leaves, lime wedges, and chili-garlic sauce. 
You can either eat it on the rice with the vegetables alongside, or you can wrap everything in a lettuce leaf. Other vegetables can be served as well such as green beans or bean sprouts. 
My adapted recipe is below. This recipe will serve about three people, but feel free to double or triple for your next dinner party. Guests will like this fun and unique dish. 

Larb with lettuce, cucumbers, and cilantro.

Larb (Lao beef salad)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks lemongrass (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 shallots, minced and separated
5 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1-2 Thai bird, or other hot chiles, minced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 lb ground beef
juice of two limes
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons toasted rice powder*
about 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
about 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint

for serving:
Jasmine or sticky rice, cooked to package directions 
Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
lime wedges
sliced cucumber
chili-garlic sauce

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the lemongrass, 1 shallot, scallion whites, and chiles. Cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the beef and break apart with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the beef is cooked through. Then add the lime juice and fish sauce. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining shallot, scallion greens, toasted rice powder, cilantro, and mint. 

Serve immediately with the accompaniments of your choice. 

*This is available in some Asian markets; however, it is simple to make at home. Simply toast a couple tablespoons of Jasmine or sticky rice in a dry skillet, stirring often, until golden brown. Then crush using a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a heavy skillet until it becomes a powder. Don't skip this as it adds a lovely nutty flavor to the dish.

Serving Larb.


  1. I wish you could have been at our Burma, Thai and Laos International Dinner last year. We had Larb then and you're right it is fun to eat wrapped up in the lettuce. :)

    1. Oh, I wish I was there, too! Spending time in Thailand is what sparked my interest in food to begin with and I love to try to recreate Southeast Asian dishes at home! You should do another one in a year or so :-)

  2. Hi Amy ,

    Looks Delicious !!!

    Neat presentation:))

    Keep up this GooD work...


  3. I have never tried a meaty salad before, all my salads have been boring and...Well pretty much romaine lettuce. This looks great!

  4. I love the sound of this meat salad!

  5. Looks good! The Thai have a similar salad, usually made with chicken mince, that I like to order. It's delicious stuff!

    1. It's the same salad. Larb is a famous Lao dish that was introduced to neighboring Thailand by the Lao during their migration. The Lao don't just live in Laos, but also in other neighboring countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, and China. Larb's popularity grew especially in Thailand because of the huge number of Lao people who live there and continue to cook their traditional Lao foods such as larb. Just like them, I'm also a big fan of Lao cuisine. As mentioned in this post, the Lao typically would use chicken, beef, pork, fish, and other proteins to make their Lao meat salad called larb.

  6. I haven't tried Larb yet, but I have a feeling I will like it! I adore Asian food, and have to have some kind at least half of the week!

  7. I eat a lot of thai food but I've actually never tried this! I've seen friends order it at restaurants though and it always looks tasty.

  8. Oh Amy, we have a lot in common! I too have never been to Laos (but plan to rectify that this winter) and I love all foods Asian!! This looks like a must try to me!!!

  9. Funny, was just thinking about making chicken larb after listening to a segment on The Splendid Table. http://www.publicradio.org/columns/splendid-table/recipes/main_larb.html. Recipe looks very similar to yours. I'm putting this on my list of things to try.

  10. I never heard of this before but it looks and sounds like something I would love! I bet I could get my picky family to eat it too!

  11. I love the medley of herbs and lime juice in this recipe. This is definitely something I want to try!

  12. Never tried this dish but looks very tasty and fresh. Congrats on your recipe!

  13. I've heard of this dish, but never tried it. It looks so good.

  14. Never had this dish before; but I bet the lemon grass adds a nice flavor contrast with the beef. I think they would make a nice light supper this summer!

  15. Sounds like a good lettuce wrap to me, I would use ground turkey since I cook with it in place of ground beef a lot. Thanks for the recipe :)

  16. I really need to start using fish sauce- I see it in so many asian recipes but I never think to buy it just for a little amount. great idea here!

  17. This is so interesting, I too never been to Laos and never tasted the food form there. The meaty salad sounds very tasty.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe and hope you have a great week ahead Amy :)


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