Pork Larb with Sticky Rice

Diners, Drive Ins and Dives – I haven’t seen the show since I chopped my cable, but they featured Pork Larb made by Chef Opel (Opal Thai Food) on the episode All Family, All the Time. I was completely enamoured – and Guy Fieri? There’s very little that shuts him up, but this dish did! 🙂 Unfortunately, no recipe! I rewound a couple of times, and here’s my take on it, down right addictive, simple and inexpensive. Make with pork or chicken.

Pork Larb, here in cabbage leaves - a flavorful salad of pork & herbs
Pork Larb, here in cabbage leaves – a flavorful salad of pork & herbs

Larb or Laab is the national dish of Laos, a “salad” of a spicy meat (it can be ground or minced beef, pork or chicken, duck or mushrooms – even minced leftovers) and various herbs and aromatics often served in lettuce (or cabbage) leaves or cups.

Larb - A "Salad" of flavorful pork & herbs
Larb – A “Salad” of flavorful pork & herbs

The aromatics can be red onion, shallot, onion or green onion and the herbs most often used are parsley and/or mint. Some recipes use lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, Vietnamese coriander, and galangal – if you have access to an Asian market go for it – but I’ve also seen recipes and videos using basic grocery store ingredients.

Brightly flavored with a combination of lime, chile and fish sauce, the signature flavor of toasted rice grounds the Larb. The addition of a little sweetness from palm sugar, brown sugar or honey adds to the complexity, but is optional.

Pork Larb - the add-ins
Pork Larb – the add-ins

In short, the flavors of Larb, like many dishes, depend on region, family recipes and your own taste – put in what you wish, vary the flavors and the heat, and make it your own. Serve with lettuce or cabbage leaves, an assortment of finely shredded vegetables, additional lime and glutinous (sticky) rice.

You can spread the rice on the lettuce, then add the meat and veggies and roll it, or if you’d like to be more authentic, use your hands to make a little cup of the sticky rice and fill. Or, you can use no rice, or substitute fine rice noodles, instead. If you’re like my son, you’ll want some Sriracha on the side.

I added the ingredients three times – what a feast for such under five bucks! Be sure to use any left over vegetables (see, I just assume there won’t be any leftover Larb) – maybe a salad or slaw? I sometimes make my Mexican Red Cabbage Slaw with the rest of the cabbage.

Pork Larb, here in cabbage leaves - a flavorful salad of pork & herbs
Pork Larb, here in cabbage leaves – a flavorful salad of pork & herbs

Pork Larb with Sticky Rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 pound of lean pork (may use ground pork)
  • 1/4 cup of water (may use a broth if you wish)
  • 1/2 cup of finely sliced red onion, shallot, or green onion
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime, if it’s a juicy one)
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (this amount makes it a mild spicy – add more if you like)
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar, brown sugar, palm nectar syrup or syrup or a corn syrup.
  • 2 teaspoons roughly ground toasted rice
  • 1/2 cup of finely sliced red onion, shallot, or green onion
  • 1/4 cup of chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • assorted vegetables for serving:  Lettuce, finely shredded cabbage, carrot, red onion and a few finely sliced radishes.

First, make the toasted rice: In a dry skillet, stirring often, toast a little rice until golden brown. Cool. Pulverize (but not quite to a powder) in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or food processor – or in a pinch, add to a Ziploc and crush. Any excess keeps in a tight jar for several weeks.

If not using ground pork (which can be fatty) cut the pork into cubes and pulse in two batches until minced but not ground, in the food processor. Add the pork cold to a skillet with about 1/4 cup of water, and stirring occasionally, cook until the meat almost loses all it’s pink color – remove from heat; the residual heat should continue to cook the meat through. Overcooking will result in a dry, rubbery larb.

Toss with the onion, allowing it to wilt just a bit. Add fish sauce, lime, red pepper flakes and the toasted rice. Add the sugar of choice, if using. Just before serving, gently toss in the mint and parsley.

Serve at room temperature with the finely shredded vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, carrot, red onion, additional lime and sticky rice.  Personally, I think it’s even better leftover and cold on a hot, hot day…

Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is easy, but you’ll need to soak it two to three hours ahead.  I’ve only seen it made in a rice cooker, which I don’t own (I’m not big on unitaskers) so I steamed mine.  My method is to simply place a metal sieve in a pan of barely boiling water, cover it with a bowl and cook until done, turning once.  Cook for about 15 – 20 minutes.

from the kitchen of http://www.frugalhausfrau.com

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read Strategies Applied for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Put Your own Spin on It:

  • Try the variations mentioned above – chicken would be a bit healthier – just don’t overcook!
  • If you’re up to it, rather than red pepper flakes, use dried bird chiles ground into a powder.
  • Taste, and add more of anything you like – it seems most children would probably like less heat, more herbs and maybe a touch more sugar…at least at first.

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