Spicy, fresh, sweet, salty, savory, citrusy. Larb, or laab, is a wonderful mix of flavors with a lot of herbs and aromatics yet an easy dish to whip up quickly. Traditionally, this is made with meat but I’ve taken Bon Appetit’s version and gave it some slight tweaks to create a completely vegetarian version that’s also easier to eat.
This is a great dish for warmer months. You can skip the lettuce and make this into a spicy topping for a rice bowl. I’ve used shiitake mushrooms in this dish but feel free to use other mushrooms. However, I recommend using firm and meaty mushrooms like Portobello or King Oyster mushrooms. Also, feel free to adjust the amount of chili used for our own heat preference, or you can even not use chilis at all if you prefer.
For those who are familiar with Larb, know that calling this dish larb salad is redundant. However, rather than serving this in lettuce cups or just with the mince mushroom/meat, I’ve mixed it with lettuce to make it into a light, spicy salad.
Originally, larb is a Laotian dish that you can find in Laos, of course, and northern Thailand where there is a large Laotian population. Interestingly, you can find variations of larb amongst the Hmong cuisine, and in the Shan State of Myanmar and Yunnan Province of China. There are also at least 4 different styles of larb where you can have it with citrus, minced meat, or even sliced meat.
So, there is a lot of variation to try and I hope this opens you to try more Laotian dishes in the future. If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out Saeng’s Kitchen. He is a chef and grew up eating and cooking Lao food. So he’s a great resource to learning more about authentic Lao food. 🙂
- 200g shiitake or mushrooms of your choice
- 4 green onions
- 1 inch of ginger
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 large shallot
- ½ serrano pepper or any pepper you prefer
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- ¼ cup of nuts (cashews or peanuts)
- ½ bunch of mint (10 g)
- ½ bunch of cilantro (10g)
- ½ head of a medium romaine lettuce
- 1 tbsp of vegetable for cooking
- A squirt of lime juice
This dish comes together quickly, so having your vegetables cut up before your start cooking is key. When it’s time to cook, it’ll be so much easier. The only downside maybe extra dishes.
- Quarter or halve your mushrooms depending on size. You’ll want ½ inch pieces. Grate your ginger and garlic. Slice the green onion. Slice the shallot and try to pop out the layers so that you have multiple rings. Slice the chili pepper. Chop the nuts.
- In a large bowl, place the roughly chopped the herbs and chopped bite-size pieces of lettuce.
- In a pan on high heat, heat the oil and fry the mushrooms. You will want to mix them so that they are covered in oil and let them sit in the pan untouched for 5 minutes. This is to develop browning.
- After 5 minutes, stir the mushrooms around. Try to mix the mushroom so that another side is down in the pan. Then leave them untouched for another 3 minutes. Repeat this one more time. This will help develop color and you will notice that the mushrooms are shrinking as they release their liquids.
- Make a well in the middle of the pan and add the garlic, ginger, and green onions. Allow that to cook for a minute and then incorporate it with the mushrooms.
- Make a well again and add the shallots, chili pepper, and nuts. Turn the heat off, the residual heat will lightly cook the chili and shallots. Then incorporate it with the rest of the mushroom mixture.
- Then take the mushroom mixture and incorporate it in the bowl with the lettuce and herbs. Mix well. Add a squirt of lime juice to your liking. You may want to add a tsp of olive oil and soy sauce if you like more dressing on your salad. Then, it is ready to serve and enjoy.