Laab, which may sometimes be written as larb, is a cold meat salad originating in the northeast of Thailand, the Isaan region. I admit the term “cold meat salad” doesn’t typically make me jump up and down with excitement. This recipe, however, has gone a long way to change my thoughts about the concept.
The main ingredient can vary on the menu including minced fish, duck, chicken or even liver or beef with a bit of blood. But the option you are likely to find is laab moo (pork). Ground pork is marinated a bit in lime juice and cooked in a hot wok. Move that to a mixing bowl and add fish sauce, more lime juice, shallots, perhaps some green onions, cilantro, and crushed chili pepper. The most important ingredient, however, is some ground up toasted rice. Some recipes add a bit of mint at the end as well. The combination of sour lime, salty fish sauce, and spicy pepper give laab its zing but the toasted rice really sets it apart from other dishes.
It goes really well with some som tam (spicy green papaya salad) and sticky rice. A good place to get this little combo is down on Soi Convent near Silom Road at Hai Som Tam but any place specializing in Isaan or northeastern food is going to have it.