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Beef Larb: taste, recipe and pork/chicken/veg alternative

Larb is a great-tasting Thai dish that did not enjoy as much spotlight as its cousin, Thai papaya salad aka Som Tum. For those of you who are not familiar with Thai food, but is a Marvel movie fan, hear us out. Larb is the dish Aunt May used as the reference in her pun to Peter in “Spiderman: homecoming”. There are many variations of larb like beef larb, pork, chicken or even vegetarian friendly version! Learn more about Larb in this post.

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Larb: Thai-isan dish

Larb is a spicy and sour meat salad originated from the Isan region of Thailand (North-eastern Thailand). Even though larb is often called “salad”, it is actually a cooked dish that is served hot. The main ingredients include meat, herbs and seasoning. Thais normally serve this dish with some fresh vegetables at the side. Larb also tastes great when eaten together with sticky rice. You can often find larb in Isan style or Som Tum meal. People often serve larb along side Som Tum or some Thai BBQ, together with sticky rice and/or kanom jeen. There are many variations of larb dishes, but our favourite is cooked beef larb!

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Beef larb vs. Chicken larb vs. Pork larb

As mentioned above, there are many ways to make larb. You can make larb with beef (hence beef larb), pork, chicken, or even duck. Larb typically makes use of minced or finely chopped meat which also works great in absorbing all the seasoning and spices. If you are visiting Thailand, there are a few things to watch out for when ordering larb

  • Beef larb: In Thailand, there are both cooked and raw beef larb. While in Bangkok, you can expect most vendors to sell larb with cooked beef. However, just indicate in your order to be safe.
  • Pork larb: Pork larb sometimes also contains innards such as pork liver or intestine. If you are not a fan of innards, you should ask the restaurant to exclude them.
  • Spicy level: Larb (or Isan food in general) tends to be spicy. If you are not used to eating spicy Asian food, asking for a milder version might be a good idea.

Recipes for Beef Larb

Whether you are looking to cook beef larb or other variations like pork/chicken, the preparation method, herbs and seasoning are mostly similar.

For every 500g of beef, you will need:

  • Shallot: 3x
  • Onion: 1/2x
  • Chili flake/dried chili: 2-3 tablespoons (put less if you cannot handle spice)
  • Lime: 2 teaspoons
  • Fish sauce: 2 tablespoons
  • Ground roasted rice: 2 tablespoons
  • Chopped spring onion/parsley: 1-2 tablespoon(s), kaffir lime leaves can be added as well!

The cooking process is simple. First, boil minced beef until almost cooked then remove it from the cooking pan/pot. Mix all the seasoning and herb into the pan/pot at low heat then put minced beef back in. Stir well and lastly add ground roasted rice before serving. You can serve it with fresh lettuce or with kanom jeen /sticky rice.

Can larb be vegetarian?

We quoted larb as Thai meat salad earlier. While this is true, we recently come across many meatless larb dishes here in Thailand. Before we move on, we have to say that these larb dishes are meatless, however they may still contain fish sauce which is a product of fish.

So what type of meatless larb have we seen? We have seen tofu larb (made with fried tofu) or with various types of mushrooms as well as glass noodles. The meatless version of larb also tastes great with sticky rice and kanom jeen! Having said this, we still stand with our decision that beef larb is the best!

Should you try Beef Larb in Thailand?

Yes! If you have tasted other more popular Thai food like Som Tum, you should expand your horizon by trying other dishes like larb. Among other larbs, we enjoy beef larb the most. Since there are many types of larb that you can have, you can pick one to your liking. Plus, with the beef larb recipe that we shared above, you can make your own at home too. Simply change the meat option if you want to make your own chicken/pork/duck larb.