Lao in origin, Laab is a meat salad dish also popular in neighbouring Thailand – a great example of the region’s mastery of balancing between sweet, sour, salty, bitter and fiery hot. This Pork Laab, Sugar Snaps & Apple recipe from Selin Kiazim’s Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast cookbook combines pork mince, crunchy toasted rice and vegetables, fiery chilli heat and a wonderfully balanced dressing featuring aromatics such as lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar.
The recipe is hugely adaptable, and is a starting point for cooks to substitute their preferred proteins, vegetables and aromatics to create laab that suits their palate and the contents of their larder.
Pork Laab, Sugar Snaps & Apple
Laab (or larb) is a meat salad of Lao origin. It perfectly combines acid from lime juice, texture from toasted rice, and contrast between the lovely fat of pork mince (ground pork) and the beautiful aromatics and chillies. I am not a laab expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a laab fan and this recipe is an homage.
You don’t have to use all the aromatics below, but these are the ones I tend to have in the fridge. Cooking up a batch of laab and keeping it on-hand in the fridge means you’ll always have a quick and easy go-to lunch or dinner option. I serve it with rice or lettuce cups for a quick alternative to this sugar snap and apple number.
- 2 tbsp rice
- neutral oil, for frying
- 450 g (1lb) pork mince (ground pork), alternatively you could use chicken or lamb mince
- 1 lemongrass, bashed and outer leaves removed, inner part finely chopped
- 5 cm (2in) ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1-2 chillies, finely sliced, or use dried chilli (red pepper) flakes
- 2 lime leaves, finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp palm sugar or dark brown sugar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1-2 limes
- 2-3 spring onions (scallions( or Thai red shallots, finely sliced
- 1 big handful of coriander (cilantro), leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
- 1 green apple
- 80 g (2¾oz) sugar snap peas
- 1 big handful of mint leaves sea salt flakes (kosher salt)
Toast the rice in a dry frying pan (skillet), over a medium heat, for 6–10 minutes or until golden brown. Once the rice has cooled, pound to a coarse powder using a pestle and mortar or in a small blender.
Place a large frying pan or wok over a high heat and add a little neutral oil. Add the pork mince (ground pork) and cook, stirring regularly, to break up the pieces. Cook for 10–15 minutes or until the mince is lightly browned and any water has evaporated.
Add in the lemongrass, ginger, chilli, lime leaves and garlic and continue to cook for 1–2 minutes. If the pan seems a little dry, add a touch more oil to help fry the aromatics. Turn the heat down to medium, add in the sugar and cook for 1–2 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the mince to cool a little. Add the fish sauce, the juice of 1 lime and a little fine salt. Taste and see if it needs more lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, or chilli. It should be juicy and punchy with the flavours, but balance it to your liking. Stir in the spring onions (scallions) and coriander (cilantro) stalks.
Quarter the apple, cut away the core from each piece and finely slice. Slice the sugar snap peas into fine strips and combine in a bowl with the apple, mint and coriander leaves, and season with sea salt flakes (kosher salt). Serve the laab in a big pile with the toasted rice scattered over the top. Pile up the salad to the side, serve with some lime wedges and a little extra chilli, if you like it really hot.
Reviewer Nicky enjoyed this dish so much she admits to licking the plate! Read Nicky’s in-depth review of Three by Selin Kiazim here.
Find more Thai recipes on Kavey Eats, or check out the review to see other recipes from the book.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Three: Acid, Texture, Contrast – The Essential Foundations to Redefine Everyday Cooking by Selin Kiazim from publisher Quadrille. Book photography by Chris Terry. Our photography by Nicky Bramley.