From America's Test Kitchen Season 10: Classic Asian Appetizers
The classic Thai salad, larb, is made with finely chopped meat and nutty rice powder tossed with fresh herbs and a light dressing that embodies the cuisine’s signature balance of sweet, sour, hot, and salty flavors. We aimed to develop a home-cook-friendly recipe.
Americanized recipes typically call for ground pork, but inconsistent results with supermarket ground pork inspired us to grind our own, using pork tenderloin and a food processor. To impart flavor and moisture to this lean cut, we marinated the meat in fish sauce. Toasted rice powder, which adds a nutty flavor and texture to the pork, can be found in Asian markets, but we found it was easier to just make our own by toasting rice until golden brown and grinding it in a mini food processor or mortar and pestle. As for the aromatic components, we found that the pungency of sliced shallots and the bright flavor of chopped mint and cilantro yielded a very flavorful salad without a trip to a specialty store. For serving, the pork is spooned into lettuce leaves and wrapped. We preferred the crisp spine, tender leaf, and mild taste of Bibb lettuce.
Serve 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course
We prefer natural pork in this recipe. If using enhanced pork, skip the marinating in step 2 and reduce the amount of fish sauce to 2 tablespoons, adding it all in step 5. Don’t skip the toasted rice; it’s integral to the texture and flavor of the dish. Any style of white rice can be used. Toasted rice powder (kao kua) can also be found in many Asian markets. This dish can be served with sticky rice and steamed vegetables as an entrée. To save time, prepare the other ingredients while the pork is in the freezer.