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Thai Lettuce Wraps aka Larb aka Yum

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I love Thai food. So much so, that when I was traveling through Thailand I took the time to take cooking classes. We made Thai red curry paste from scratch, green papaya salad, fried bananas and so much more. It was all delicious. The fresh ingredients direct from food markets were rich with flavor.

The morning food markets in Thailand were full of the sights, sounds and smells of indescribable produce, spices and meats. I even saw bats for sale once! Don’t get the wrong idea though. There were plenty of flies in sight. The smells weren’t always…delightful (think rotting meat.) And the sounds were of a multitude of loudly haggling locals. They were also crowded, sweaty and a little dirty. But I loved them and all the new ingredients and flavors they represented. Cooking in Thailand is definitely farm to table. Thanks to a local Asian store, I have been able to continue making these dishes with only small adjustments to the ingredients (and a heaping increase in food safety!)

Larb is a Thai meat salad served in lettuce leaves that is flavorful, spicy and light. It can be made with either ground pork or chicken.

The first step though is to head out to your nearest Asian grocery store and buy a small bag of sticky or sweet Thai rice. This recipe only uses a small amount, but don’t worry, it won’t go to waste. My next post will explain how to make Thai sticky rice with mango.

Take 3 tbsp of the rice and place it in a small saucepan on low heat. Toast the rice  for about 15 minutes or until a golden brown color. It will start to smell like popcorn.

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Once toasted, grind it in a mortar until it becomes a coarse powder. (You could also use a food processor). Set aside.

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Cook your pork or chicken in a medium saucepan until cooked through. Remove from heat and add one heaping tbsp of the sticky rice powder and your chili flakes. Mix well and then allow the meat to cool for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients (except the lettuce leaves and peanuts) and stir well to combine.

Serve on lettuce leaves and garnish with peanuts.

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Thai Lettuce Wraps
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp Thai sweet/sticky rice
  • 1 lb minced pork or chicken
  • 1/2-1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2-3 small shallots sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 20 leaves fresh mint torn into medium sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup peanuts chopped for garnish
  • 10 lettuce leaves
Instructions
  1. In  a small saucepan, on low heat, toast the sticky rice until golden brown. It will smell like popcorn

  2. Grind the toasted rice using a mortar or food processor into a coarse powder

  3. In a large saucepan, cook the pork/chicken until cooked through. Break into small pieces. Remove from heat

  4. Add 1 heaping tbsp of the rice powder and the chili flakes. Stir till well combined

  5. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. You want it warm, but not so hot that your herbs will cook

  6. Add remaining ingredients, except for the peanuts and lettuce leaves. Stir to combine

  7. Garnish with chopped peanuts and serve on lettuce leaves