Larb is a type of Lao minced meat salad and is widely considered to be the national dish of Laos. It is normally made with beef, pork, chicken or fish, and we've been making the beef and pork versions of the dish around here for a while to rave reviews. In order to satisfy the needs of our non-meat eating pescatarian, I thought we'd try a shrimp based version on for size and am so glad we did.
In all honesty, I think the larb with pork comes out atop the leader-board in this household because as is plainly obvious to everyone at my table…..pork fat rules! Having said that, we loved this variation as well, finding it to be super light and refreshing and just packed with flavor. It's the perfect dish with which to kick off the new year, fully in-line with everyone's healthy eating resolutions without having to sacrifice all important flavor.
One of the beauties of this recipe is how easy it is to switch up by adding other proteins. Not feeling like shrimp tonight, just sub in an equal amount of ground beef, pork, or chicken (or some combination of them) and keep the rest of the recipe just as it is. You can also easily modify the dish to suit individual tastes at your table. Not a big fan of heat, take it easy on the chilies, don't want to pucker too much in front of the guests, ease off the lime and fish sauce.
No matter how you dress up (or down) this dish, it's a keeper, you're gonna love it!
Cheers – Steve
- 8 ounces green cabbage (about 1/2 a head) cored and thinly sliced or shredded
- 2/3 pound green beans, topped and tailed
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
- 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 3 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 1/4 pounds shrimp, cut into bite sized pieces (or ground meat of your choice)
- 1 small, red onion, thinly sliced
- 3 very thinly sliced scallions
- 1/3 cup finely chopped salted cashews or peanuts
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus whole leaves for garnish
- 6 sprigs of mint, leaves coarsely chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1-2 serrano or jalapeno chilies, thinly sliced
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water on your counter. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pull the beans from the pot and plunge them into the ice bath, leaving them there until fully chilled. Drain and pat them dry, then slice them thinly on a bias.
- Toss the beans into a large bowl with the shredded cabbage and about 1/2 of the cilantro. Reserve.
- Place the coriander seeds into a small skillet set over medium heat and cook until fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Crush them with a mortar and pestle and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, sesame oil, 4 tablespoons of lime juice, the garlic and sugar.
- In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until slightly caramelized. Add the shrimp and a pinch of salt and cook until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat then add the rest of the cilantro, the chopped basil, the fish sauce mix, the nuts, cayenne, mint, and half the sliced chilies. Stir to combine and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- To the cabbage add the remaining lime juice, a small glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine.
- Divide the cabbage and bean salad among your plates, top with the shrimp mix and garnish with extra chili slices, crushed coriander seeds, and basil leaves as desired.