Pork salad? You bet. It’s a dish where ground pork finally gets to be centre stage. Toasted and ground rice is a common garnish for Thai salads; use sticky rice, which is also worth buying for this dessert. There are instructions below to adjusting the amount of lime juice and fish sauce; if you’re new to Thai cooking, getting the right balance of flavours is a fun process of trial and error.
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) uncooked white sticky rice (also called sweet rice or glutinous rice) or jasmine rice
- 1 to 2 limes, divided
- 1/2 lb (220 g) ground pork
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, cut into 1/8-inch (3 mm) slices
- 10 sprigs fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) torn fresh mint leaves
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) fish sauce, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp (5 ml) red chili powder
- 1 head of butter lettuce or Boston lettuce (core removed, leaves left whole)
- fresh Thai basil, for garnish (optional)
- Toast the rice in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until the rice is a rich golden colour, about 4 to 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then pound in a mortar and pestle or process in a spice grinder or coffee grinder until finely ground. Set aside.
- Squeeze the juice from a lime half onto the ground pork. Mix it in well, and let it marinate for a few minutes.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of water to the pan, and immediately add the pork. Cook, stirring, until the pork is done, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the green onions, shallots, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, chili powder, and almost all the toasted rice, reserve some for sprinkling on top of the salad. Squeeze over the juice of a lime half. Stir to incorporate.
- Taste the salad. It should be just a little hot, with some tartness from the lime juice with a nice taste of fish sauce. Add more fish sauce and/or lime juice as needed.
- Separate the leaves of the lettuce. Divide the laab into the lettuce cups, top with the remaining toasted rice, and garnish with Thai basil.