Larb made with cooked beef in Vientiane, Laos
|Alternative name(s)||Laap, Larp, Lahp, Lahb|
|Place of origin||Laos and northern Thailand|
|Main ingredient(s)||Meat (chicken, beef, duck, turkey, pork, or fish)|
|Variations||Several across the world|
Larb (Lao: ລາບ; Thai: ลาบ, RTGS: lap [lâːp], also spelled laap, larp or lahb) is a type of Lao minced meat salad that is regarded as the national dish of Laos. It is also eaten in Isan, an area of Thailand of which its inhabitants are for a large part of Laotian descent. There are also Lao and Thai communities in the U.S., France, and England, resulting in larb being served in those areas as well. Local variants of larb also feature in the cuisines of the Tai peoples of Shan State, Burma, and Yunnan province, China.
Types of larb
Larb is most often made with chicken, beef, duck, fish, pork or mushrooms, flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, padaek, roasted ground rice and fresh herbs. The meat can be either raw or cooked; it is minced and mixed with chili, mint and, optionally, assorted vegetables. Roughly ground toasted rice (khao khua) is also a very important component of the dish. The dish is served at room temperature and usually with a serving of sticky rice and raw vegetables.
Northern Thai version
The larb from northern Thailand - larb Lanna - is very different from the internationally more well-known Laotian and Isan style larb. The northern Thai larb of the Tai Yuan/Khon Mueang (Northern Thai people) does not contain lime or fish sauce, but instead uses an elaborate mix of dried spices as flavoring and seasoning which includes ingredients such as cumin, cloves, long pepper, star anise, prickly ash seeds and cinnamon amongst others, in addition to ground dried chillies, and, in the case of larb made with pork or chicken, also the blood of the animal used. The dish can be eaten raw (larb dip), but also after it has been stir-fried for a short time (larb suk). If blood is omitted from the preparation of the stir-fried version, the dish is called larb khua. There is also a kind of larb called larb leut (Lao: ເລືອດ) or lu (Thai: ลู่). This dish is made with minced raw pork or beef, raw blood, kidney, fat and bile, and mixed with spices, crispy fried onions, fresh herbs and other ingredients. Larb and its other variations are served with an assortment of fresh vegetables and herbs, and eaten with glutinous rice. This version of larb is viewed as having originated in the town of Phrae, in northern Thailand. This style of "larb" can also be found in parts of northern Laos.
Saa (Lao: ສ້າ) is a hash commonly made with pork or fish and tossed with banana blossom and bean thread noodles. In Laos, this dish is regarded as a variation of larb. In northern Thailand, sa (Thai: ส้า) is regarded as a separate category of dishes of which the ingredients are first roasted, and then mixed with a little liquid.
Nam tok (Lao: ນ້ຳຕົກ, Thai: น้ำตก) is a Lao and Thai word meaning waterfall. It refers to a popular Lao meat dish in both Laos and Isan, where it is commonly known as Ping Sin Nam Tok (Laos) or Nuea Yang Nam Tok (Thailand) meaning "Grilled Waterfall Beef". This dish can be regarded as a variation on the standard larb, however the meat used in nam tok is sliced instead of using ground beef as is the case with larb. It can also be made with pork and it is then called mu nam tok. In the modern quick version the meat is not grilled and then sliced but first sliced and then boiled or fried for a very short time. The name is derived either from the dripping of the meat juices during the grilling or from the juices running out of the medium rare beef as it is sliced.
Consumption of raw larb
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