Thai food is one of our favorite cuisines. Jeff and I adore pretty much all Asian cuisines, but we’re particularly fond of the spiciness of Thai food and its emphasis on mint and citrus.
Surprisingly though, I had not even heard of larb until we watched Giada’s Thai food episode a few months ago. Larb, also spelled laab, is a simple Southeast Asian meat salad served at room temperature, usually consisting of ground or minced meat, citrus, peppers, herbs, veges, and Asian sauces, and is often served with sticky rice. It is the national dish of Laos and also a staple of northern Thai cuisine.
Giada’s version serves the finished dish up as lettuce wraps instead of as a plated salad over rice.
Jeff and I have made this dish a couple times now and it is already a favorite of ours — especially when we’re trying to eat more healthy. The first time was just for the two of us, so we added a couple more chilis and some chili sauce to “up” the spicy heat factor and served it with a cellophane noodle salad on the side. However, we stuck to the basic recipe when making it for the kids — who also loved the dish — since they don’t share our spice tolerance, and this time served it with shrimp spring rolls.
This recipe is a perfect meal for a summer weeknight. The fresh flavors of mint and citrus are so refreshing when it’s hot outside, and the meal is pretty quick to make.
Leftovers work great for a brown bag lunch at work. I just pack the salad mixture into a plastic bowl, and pack a few lettuce leave into a plastic bag, then store both at room temperature right at at my desk. I don’t need to refrigerate it or heat it up in a microwave.
- ⅓ cup fresh lime juice, from about 5 limes
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce*
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- ½ red onion, diced
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 (4-inch) piece lemongrass, minced (about ¼ cup)*
- 1 Thai chile, such as prik kee noo, or 1 serrano chile, stemmed and thinly sliced*
- Kosher salt
- 1 pounds ground turkey, preferably dark meat
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lemon juice, fish sauce and honey.
- Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, lemongrass, chile, and salt, to taste. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the turkey and season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat and vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Add the dressing to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mint.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Spoon the turkey mixture onto the lettuce leaves and arrange on a serving platter.
Serving suggestion: sticky or steamed white rice
Yield: 2 to 3 wraps per serving.