Larb (Pronounced as Lahp, the R is muted) is a minced meat salad made with fresh and flavourful ingredients such as mint, limes, lemongrass, ground meat and ground up toasted rice. Traditionally, larb is served with a side of sticky rice, this lemongrass pork meatballs recipe will show you 3 alternative ways to enjoy this!
The classic way to make this it is to cook the pork as is so that it is crumbly but I decided to break tradition a bit and made this to a meatball. I find meatballs a bit easier to eat, great to travel with and bite-sized little things are great for sharing! It's a bit more work but well worth it, and if you have a traditionalist among your crowd they can always smush the meatball up and it's crumbly again! Versatile 🙂
Tidbit #1 : Larb is most commonly known as a Thai dish but it actually originates from Laos! 🙂
Let's talk about flavours. What does larb taste like?
This is a VERY flavourful dish. The most predominant flavours are from the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves followed by a bit of tang from the limes and the saltiness and umaminess from the fish sauce. Mint is a big part of this dish. I didn't put mint into the actual pork meatballs itself because I find that cooking mint, mutes the flavours so it was served fresh on the side.
For this pork meatballs recipe, most ingredients can be found in your local grocery store.
Although galangal looks similar to ginger, it actually does not have the same flavour so it cannot be substituted with ginger. Galangal has a clean, citrusy and piney flavour, whereas ginger is has a sharp, spicy, warm and peppery flavour. If you cannot find galangal, this can be omitted.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
1.) Toast the Glutinous Rice & Grind it Up
On low heat, toast the rice in a frying pan for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Once it looks nice and golden, wait for it to cool and grind it up in a mortar and pestle or food processor.
2.) Blitz the Spices
If you are using fresh lemongrass, use only the thick stalk on the bottom and discard the upper half that looks dry. The flavour is at the bottom.
Remove the stem and spine from the kaffir lime leaves. This is a very waxy leaf and keeping the spine and stems make it harder to break down.
In a food processor, grind up: kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass (if not using pre-ground), garlic, shallots and galangal. (You can also chop these all by hand but make sure you finely chop it so you don't get big chunks of any particular spice)
3.) Combine & Roll
In a bowl, combine the pork, spices that were ground up, the ground up toasted rice powder, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce and mix.
Tip #1 : To taste if the pork meatballs have enough flavour or salt, put ½ tsp of meat mixture into a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up to do taste tests!
You can mix this up by hand or with a stand mixer.
Once the mixture is well combined, roll them up into 1-inch meatballs. This will make between 30-40 meatballs.
Tip #2: If the meat is sticking to your hands, keep a small bowl of water by your side to lightly wet the palms of your hands before rolling.
4.) Cook it Up!
In a frying pan add ¼-1/2 inch of oil and set the heat to medium and wait until the oil is hot or shimmering.
Add in the meatballs and fry them for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
LET'S EAT - 3 WAYS !
Add some vermicelli (or rice) in a bowl, add some pork meatballs and top it with refreshing garnishes such as cucumbers, and mint and a wedge of lime for some extra zing. Top it with nuts for a bit of crunch!
Sauces: Sriracha, Nuoc Cham (A sweet, sour and salty dressing), thinned out hoisin sauce.
For the lettuce wrap, you can use any type of lettuce. We found that green leaf lettuce (different from the iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce) and boston lettuce were easiest to wrap with. Top it with vermicelli noodles, mint, bean sprouts, a squirt of lime, any type of additional fresh vegetables.
Sauces: Sriracha, thinned out hoisin sauce.
The salad is one of the easiest ways to eat this dish. Use any type of greens and veggies and toss it with a light dressing such as noac cham. Toppings can also include fruits for a bit of sweetness (like mango) and some toasted nuts for a bit of crunch.
...and of course, you can also enjoy this the traditional way - with a side of sticky rice and vegetables! 😉
You should try these deep-fried as well! They are delicious! 🙂
Lemongrass Pork Meatballs (Larb Style) - 3 Ways
Toast the Glutinous Rice
- In a frying pan, set the stove on low heat and toast the glutinous rice for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. (Keep the pan moving to prevent the rice from burning)
- Once the rice has been toasted, let it cool and grind it to a medium powder with a mortar and pestle or food processor and set it aside.
Grinding the Spices
- In a food processor, grind the: keffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass (if using whole stalks), garlic and shallots.
Rolling the Meatballs
- In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, toasted glutinous rice powder and freshly ground spices together and combine it by hand or stand mixer.
- Roll the meat mixture into 1 inch meatballs.
Cooking the Meatballs
- In a pan, put ¼ to ½ inch of oil on medium heat and wait for the oil to get hot and shimmery before adding in the meatballs to cook.
- Cook the meatballs for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Flipping them every 30 seconds to evenly cook it.
Serving it Up - 3 Ways
- As a Noodle Bowl - Boil some vermicelli noodles and add the noodles and meatballs into the bowl. Garnish it with mint, cucumbers, a wedge of lime for some zing. Top it with crushed nuts for a bit of crunch.
- Sauces: Sriracha, Nuoc Cham (A sweet, sour and salty dressing), thinned out hoisin sauce.
- As a Lettuce Wrap - As a wrap we found using Boston lettuce or green leaf lettuce (different from iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce) the easiest to roll with. Top it with vermicelli, crushed nuts and bean sprouts.
- Sauces: Sriracha, thinned out hoisin sauce.
- As a Salad - Chop up any type of green lettuce and top it with chopped vermicelli, bean sprouts or any type of fresh vegetables and fruits (like mango!). Serve with crushed nuts for some crunch and a light vinaigrette dressing such as nuoc cham (sweet, sour and salty fish sauce dressing)
- If you are using fresh stalks of lemongrass, use only the whites at the bottom and discard the dried top part of the stalk
- Before grinding the keffir lime leaves, remove the stem and spine. They prevent the leaves from being ground up into small bits
- Keep the pan moving when you're toasting the glutinous rice to prevent it from burning
- If the meat is sticking to your hands during the meatball rolling step, keep a small bowl of water around to keep your palms damp before rolling
- Heat up ½ tsp of meat in the microwave to taste test if the meat mixture is salty or flavourful enough
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