Pork loin (with slight fat), 300g
Ground roasted rice, 3 teaspoons
Fish sauce, 4 tablespoons
Chili powder, 1 teaspoon (or more if preferred)
2 fresh chili - reed or green, diced (in balance proportion to the chili powder)
Shallots, diced, 5 cloves
Limejuice, 3 tablespoons
Spring onion, diced, 3 sprigs
Coriander leaves & mints, roughly chopped, 5 sprigs
Lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, string bean, fresh chili and any other fresh herbs to accompany
Method of preparation
1. Chop the pork loin until almost fine. The best way is to first dice into small thin pieces before chopping it. Please take care at this stage as the chopping must not be too fine or ‘machine made’ like looking. A slight roughness of the minced meat helps preserve the flavour.
2. Chop up all the fresh herbs and spices and set aside.
3. Over the low-medium heat and by using a non-stick frying pan, cook the meat to about 80% done. The fat of the meat should create sufficient liquid - otherwise, a couple of tablespoon of water can be added.
4. Move the meat cooking from the heat and continue to stir until it is degraded from ‘hot’ to ‘warm’.
5. Add the fish sauce, limejuice and then follow by both the dried and fresh chili. Once it is well mixed, the ground-roasted rice is then added.
6. Finally, add all the fresh green herbs and spices. Be careful at this stage, as the tossing has to be very light in order to preserve the freshness and texture. Adjust the seasoning to personal taste by the limejuice, fish sauce or chili, if a hotter taste is preferred
7. Serve the salad immediately with the raw vegetable accompaniments.
Laab or ‘warm salad’ is one of Thailand’s northeast classic phenomenons. It refers to an original salad of cooked-minced meat or fish with the most popular choice of meat being the ‘neutral’ chicken. I personally prefer pork, duck or even the venison as it reminds me of the true country style. The creamy flavour of the pork balance up truly well with the sharp acidic salad taste.
When cooking with beef, the ideal cut would be strip, sirloin or those with juicy fat. For chicken, the thigh is preferred as opposed to the breast. In the original home version, I particularly love it with the sliced liver being cooked together with the meat. For fish, the ideal type in Thailand would be for catfish or the snakehead – the smoked versions of the two can be found in some Asian supermarkets. The easier to find variation would be other fresh river fish such as snapper or bass.
The key ingredient to distinguish ‘Laab’ from other salads is the ground-roasted rice. If you can’t find this ready-made ingredient, which is likely to be available only at Thai markets, simply just roasting the uncooked rice on the pan until brown and smoky. Let it cool off before grinding it into powder.
In the case you shop at the supermarket, one convenient tip to save time on meat is to pick the already minced meat and to add only a fatty part to it which you can chop it just roughly yourself at home. If you buy your meat from the butcher, tell him to pick the cut and mince according to the specific need.