Friday, September 24, 2004
Best of my Larb
This is not for the faint hearted...I first tasted this from my Lao friends and students, long, long time ago, in the bundoks of Bataan. There are many versions in Thai cookbooks but over the years this is how I've adapted it.
The distinctive taste of toasted rice powder gives it such oomph. Filipinos use it mainly for kare kare as far as I know: as a thickener for the meat stew. I enjoy making this beef salad because I taste as I mix, and before I know it it's half gone.
Grill a 1 lb. slab of your favorite steak. Slice thinly. Add on the following, according to your taste: fresh lime juice, thinly sliced red onions and lemongrass, patis (preferably Vietnamese), sliced hot sili, toasted rice powder, cilantro leaves, and a smattering of scallions and fresh mint. Season with salt and pepper. Sugar can also be added to balance the hot, sour, salty, sweet ideal. Serve on lettuce cups with hot steamed jasmine rice.
(My Lao friends served this to me using boiled ground pork and pork skin; chicken works well too. They also served it with steamed sticky rice, which takes more time and work. I've tried this with raw freshly home-ground beef: the meat got cooked by the lime juice, a la ceviche/kinilaw. I've decided my favorite is rare grilled steak cuts like flank, skirt, or sirloin.) . The best I've tasted is at Sripaphai, a humble little family restaurant (serving Issan Thai food, featured in Saveur magazine) in Woodside, NY(Queens); heavily laced with Thai bird chilis, very hot and tasty. You will definitely need a huge glass of ice cold Singha for that.