A flurry of fingers and cupped lettuce leaves
The rains have returned, and this evening Keaton quite literally blew off the downtown street and into my car. We came home for gin and tonics, which, after a busy couple of days at work, Keats admirably threw back like a pro. She then quickly got to work making herself a second one, not without a near-catastrophic misjudgment of lime juice quantity and a splash of Plymouth gin on the formica counter.
Meanwhile, I made my first larb. Sweet, sweet larb! Good larb! Oh, larb have mercy. From now on, I’m going to larb everything in sight. Henceforth, no meat will be safe. Tonight it was ground pork, cooked in my big heavy skillet with a bit of chicken broth and then exuberantly doused with an aromatic rust-colored mixture of lime juice, fish sauce, minced shallots, slivered scallions, finely chopped lemongrass, ground red chilis, powdered galangal (which takes second place in the Favorite New Words category, coming in right on the heels of “larb” itself), and a chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves. I set out a pot of hot sticky rice, and Keaton artfully arranged some sturdy red-leaf lettuce in our bowls. Then we attacked, chopsticks clicking madly, and the larb soon disappeared in a flurry of fingers and cupped lettuce leaves. I got a splinter from overly aggressive chopstick use. We feasted.
[Slightly adapted from recipeGullet, with all credit to snowangel and her Thai nanny]
3 Tbs chicken stock
8 oz ground pork
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
3 Tbs nam pla, or Thai fish sauce (I used Three Crabs brand)
4-6 tsp ground red chili (dried, not fresh, and not to be confused with cayenne; or try using 3-4 fresh red bird chilis, thinly sliced)
4 small shallots, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom 3” minced
3 small kaffir lime leaves, sliced into a chiffonade
1 tsp powdered galangal (apparently a close relative of ginger, commonly used in Thai cooking; you can buy it fresh, but for this recipe, look for it in the spice section of your local Asian grocer. Sometimes I go to the Asian grocery store just to feel tall for a while. Not that I’m short, but only average. I like to feel above average now and then. Don’t you?)
1 Tbs toasted rice powder (you can purchase this, or make your own by toasting raw sticky rice in a heavy skillet and then grinding it in a spice grinder)
Lettuce leaves and sticky rice for serving
Poach ground pork in broth in a wok or large skillet. Add remaining ingredients and heat through. Serve warm with lettuce leaves for scooping and cooked sticky rice.