Isaan: Larb

Restaurant: Green Champa Garden
City: Fremont, CA

larb

Mixed mint, onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Can be served with pork, minced beef, fish, or minced chicken. We usually pick beef for larb. I’ve had chicken larb at Thai Boat in SLO, and I have yet to try fish larb.

Larb (Lao: ລາບ; Thai: ลาบ; also spelled laaplarp or lahb) is a type of Lao minced meat salad that is regarded as the national dish of Laos. It is also eaten in Isaan, an area of northeastern Thailand of which its inhabitants are for a large part of Laotian descent. (Wikipedia)

Larb is doubtlessly one of the best-known dishes from the Isaan region in northeast Thailand, which lies adjacent to Laos and Cambodia. On home ground, the salad is made with duck, pork, or river fish, or even dried fish. Whatever the salad is made with, the main ingredient in ground and cooked form is the center of attention, tasting strongly of lime and sometimes even more strongly of the short, colorful chiles that give Thai food much of its heat. Fresh mint and kaffir lime leaves are also frequent additions. Issan larb is made with ground pork heavily laden with lime juice and faintly flavored with chopped scallions. The salad is more refreshing than hot. (Village Voice)

The larb from Laos and Isan is most often made with chicken, beef, duck, fish, pork or mushrooms, flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, padaek, roasted ground rice and fresh herbs. The meat can be either raw or cooked; it isminced and mixed with chili, mint and, optionally, assorted vegetables. Roughly ground toasted rice (khao khua) is also a very important component of the dish. The dish is served at room temperature and usually with a serving of sticky rice and raw vegetables. (Wikipedia)

However, there is a difference in the larb from Laos and Isaan (northeastern Thailand). Lao use padaek, which is an original Lao sauce that is made from chunks of fish, mixed with tiny grains of rice bran and salt and preserved in a container for a few months to a year which releases a strong smell when opened. It’s similar to a fish gone bad or a smell of a garbage bin left for weeks. Isaan use fish sauce, which is an amber-colored liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt, or the Vietnamese fish sauce nước mắm. (Lao Pride & Kha’s Recipies)

The larb from northern Thailand – larb Lanna – is very different from the internationally more well-known Laotian and Isan style larb. The northern Thai larb of the Tai Yuan/Khon Mueang (Northern Thai people) does not contain lime or fish sauce, but instead uses an elaborate mix of dried spices as flavoring and seasoning which includes ingredients such as cumin, cloves, long pepper, star anise, prickly ash seeds and cinnamon amongst others, in addition to ground dried chillies, and in the case of larb made with pork or chicken, also the blood of the animal used. (Wikipedia)

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