Larp (north Thai spicy salad)

Larp is a traditional salad dish from the Issan region of north-east Thailand, and is also common in northern Laos. It is usually made with a combination of cooked and raw minced meat, usually buffalo. My version cannot claim authenticity, but it achieves the same flavour while being vegan-friendly.

Flavour: Tangy, fragrant & spicy – a complex flavour

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 200g tofu, crumbled (you can substitute this with finely chopped mushrooms, minced TVP, your favourite mock meat – minced, or a combination)
  • 2 red chillies, chopped finely (adjust chilli to your own taste – this dish is supposed to be spicy, but you’re the best judge of how much you can handle!)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (minced if preferred)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar (or if you can’t get it, raw sugar)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped (make sure you remove the tough outer layer before chopping so you don’t get any tough bits in your salad)
  • 2 shallots (or 1 spring onion) – finely sliced
  • Handful of coriander, chopped
  • Approx 30 mint leaves, whole (these are small enough to be kept whole – if you have large leaves you may prefer to use fewer, and chop them)

Extras (for garnish):

  • Salad extras: sliced cucumber, snake beans snapped into 3-4cm pieces

Utentsils:

  • Large, preferably heavy, pestle and mortar (I prefer the wooden ones they use in Thailand & Laos) – if you don’t have one, a salad bowl will do for mixing, but a pestle and mortar are best for getting the flavours out and well mixed

Directions:

  1. Optional: lightly fry your tofu (or alternative choice of protein) until it is slightly golden (you can skip this step if you prefer to have it raw)
  2. In a large, heavy pestle and mortar (or mixing bowl, if you don’t have a pestle and mortar), pound the chillies, garlic, palm sugar, lemongrass and shallots until well combined
  3. Transfer tofu to pestle and mortar, and fold into the spice mixture
  4. Add soy sauce and lime juice, and mix well
  5. Add coriander and mint, and mix well
  6. Serve immediately, with sliced cucumber on the side (this is a spicy dish, so the cucumber helps you  stay cool!) – best eaten with steamed sticky rice (see here for how to prepare sticky rice)

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