Southeast Asia mesmerizes me—the diverse culture, places, people, and food—it is my favorite region in the whole world. Born and raised in Malaysia and its proximity to the neighboring Southeast Asian countries make me appreciate the diversity and rich heritage of this land even more. I have traveled quite a bit in the region but one of the countries that I haven’t been to is Laos. As a result, I have never had real Laotian food, other than this lemongrass and cilantro chicken, or ping gai, which I posted recently.
The truth is, everything I read about Laos intrigues me. Its history, misty mountains and mystic land, saffron-robed monks, golden stupas, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, and its food. I have longed to go and see Laos, and I know that in the near future, my dream will come true. For now, I can always attempt some of the iconic Laos dishes in my kitchen, for example: this pork larb lettuce wrap.
Larb is a Laotian meat salad popular in Laos as well as certain parts of Thailand. This recipe is most likely a Laotian rendition without any spices, adapted from a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine. Larb is usually served with raw vegetables and makes a perfect filling for lettuce wraps.
The refreshing taste and freshness of the lettuce leaf pairs perfectly with the seasoned ground pork , while the spicy, tangy, and sweet dipping sauce completes this pork larb lettuce wrap recipe.
Adapted from: Food and Wine August 2012
Serves 4 as appetizer | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 Thai chilies with seeds, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon long-grain rice
1 Thai chili with seeds, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup of torn basil, mint and cilantro leaves
1 butterhead or iceberg lettuce
Combine all the ingredients for the Dipping Sauce and whisk to blend. Set aside or refrigerate until use.
For the Filling, heat up the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the sugar and cook for 20 seconds.
Mix in the pork and cook over moderate high heat. Break the meat finely and cook thoroughly until no pink, about 4 minutes. Add in the fish sauce and soy sauce, stir to mix. Add in salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Toast the long-grain rice by heating the rice in a sauce pan or small skillet (no oil) over medium heat. Gently shake the pan to move the rice around until brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the toasted rice to bowl to cool. Use a spice grinder to grind the toasted rice into powder.
When ready to serve, reheat the Filling. Remove from heat and add in the thinly sliced Thai chili, red onion and the 1/4 cup of basil, mint and cilantro leaves.
Sprinkle the rice powder on top and spoon the Filling into a Butterhead lettuce leave. Serve with the Dipping Sauce.
You can choose to substitute with ground beef.
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