|Alternative names||Laap, Larp, Lahp, Lahb, Laab|
|Place of origin||Laos and northern Thailand|
|Created by||Lao cuisine|
|Main ingredients||Meat (chicken, beef, duck, turkey, pork, or fish)|
|Variations||Several across the world|
Larb (Lao: ລາບ; Thai: ลาบ, RTGS: lap, pronounced [lâːp], also spelled laap, larp, lahb or laab) is a type of Lao meat salad that is regarded as the "unofficial" national dish of Laos. It is also eaten in the Isan region, an area of Thailand where the majority of the population is of the Lao ethnicity. The Hmong people, an ethnic minority group in Thai who migrated into the country in the nineteenth century, have adopted the Lao dish along with many other elements of Lao cuisine. Outside Southeast Asia, larb is served in Lao, Thai, and Hmong communities in the U.S., France, and UK. Local variants of larb also feature in the cuisines of the Tai peoples of Shan State, Burma, and Yunnan province, China.
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 khoua) 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.
Tai Nyuan/Lanna style
The larb from northern Thailand - larb Lanna - is very different from the internationally more well-known Lao style larb. The northern Thai larb of the Tai Nyuan/Khon Muang (Northern Thai people) does not contain fish sauce and is not sour, as neither lime juice nor any other souring agent is used. Instead, the northern Thai version uses a 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, derived from the location of northern Thailand's Lanna Kingdom on one of the spice routes to China, 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 luat (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.
Nam tok (Lao: ນ້ຳຕົກ, Thai: น้ำตก) is a Lao and Thai word meaning 'waterfall'. 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. 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). This dish can be regarded as a variation on the standard larb, and is made from barbecued pork or beef, usually the neck, which is sliced in bite-size pieces. The meat is then brought to a boil with some stock to create sauce. The heat is turned off, and then sliced shallots, ground roasted rice, chili powder, lime juice, and fish sauce are added, along with shredded coriander leaves, spring onions and mint leaves.
Health risks of consuming raw larb
The risks from eating raw meat include contracting trichinosis, caused by an infectious worm, along with fatal bacterial or potentially rabies infection. The consumption of raw larb and lu made with raw pork has led to several cases of human Streptococcus suis infections in Thailand, some of them with a deadly result.
The consumption of raw fresh water fish can lead to an infection by Opisthorchis viverrini (Southeast Asian liver fluke), a parasitical flatworm that can live for many years inside the human liver. Northern Thailand, where certain fishes are consumed fermented, has the highest recorded rate of medically untreatable cholangiocarcinoma.
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