Culinary Odyssey (Part 3): Larb, Thailand

Join Exodus' Dan Jackson for a worldwide culinary odyssey. This time, we're voyaging to Thailand. 

One of the first letters (yes, some people do still write them!) I plucked from my sack this week was from my dear old Mum of Brockenhurst in the heart of the beautiful New Forest. OK, so it was the only letter I received but all feedback is much appreciated…

She is slightly perturbed, and has ticked me off for being a tad slapdash regarding weights and measures for last month’s Lamb tajine recipe. For fear of upsetting her further and incurring her wrath, not to mention another hefty slab of Basildon Bond winging its way to Exodus towers I hereby promise to deliver in a more precise manner…. and before you ask, I’m not featuring humble pie this month!

Royal Palace, Bangkok. Royal Palace, Bangkok.

Not too long ago I headed to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand to learn a bit more about the skills and ingredients needed to start knocking up some delicious and varied Thai cuisine (we can all bang out a Thai green curry, can’t we?). I signed up for a full day course run by the Thai cookery school fully equipped with outdoor work stations and all organised with extreme efficiency, as you would expect from a couple with over 20 years experience in running their own restaurant in Bangkok.

The morning kicked off with a shopping trip for ingredients to the main food market just outside Chiang Mai with Vannee talking us through the bewildering array of spices, herbs, fruit and vegetables. Almost all were exotic and enticing – although I averted my gaze when we encountered the fresh offal section…not my thing.

Utilising some fairly ruthless bargaining skills to baht-er (sorry, couldn’t resist it) for our ingredients we departed the market laden with essentials for our full days cooking extravaganza such as lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime, chilli and basil - there are 27 main herbs and spices that form the basis for authentic Thai cooking.

A feast fit for a king A feast fit for a king

Back at Vannee’s house the next 3 hours or so were spent knocking up a Thai banquet comprising eight very different dishes under her expert tutelage. We then devoured our own creations so if you were a bit over zealous with the chilli for example you paid the ultimate price. Here’s one of my light refreshing summer favourites, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy…Mum, I look forward to your feedback, and before you put pen to paper, we are talking about standard size teacups for the measures below… (Not builder’s mugs)

Spicy minced pork salad (Larb) – Try with a nice chilled bottle of Singha beer.

Serves four
2 stems lemon grass (white part only)
2 fresh green chillies
1 tbsp oil
500 g. lean minced pork
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tsp finely grated lime rind
2-6 tsp chilli sauce
Lettuce leaves, for serving
1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves
1/4 cup small fresh mint leaves
1 small red onion, very finely sliced
1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup crisp fried garlic

Preparation: 
1. Slice the white part of the lemon grass very finely and thin. Finely chop the green chillies
2. Heat oil in a wok or frying pan. Add lemon grass, chillies and pork mince to wok. Stir-fry, breaking up any lumps of mince as it cooks, over high heat for 6 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl; allow to cool.
3. Add lime juice and rind, and the chilli sauce to cooled mince mixture. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Stir most of the coriander and mint leaves, onion, peanuts and fried garlic through the mince mixture. Distribute over the lettuce and sprinkle the rest of the leaves, onion, peanuts and garlic over the top.

Got a taste for Thailand?  Cookery enthusiasts should check out our special Food Departures on Classic Thailand adventure. These departures have a real foodie focus, from classes at the Thai cookery school to munching your way round the markets. You will learn the intricacies of Thai cooking under the supervision of an English-speaking Thai chef. You don’t need to be a proficient cook to enjoy this activity but be warned, you get to eat your creations at the end of the day!

For all our adventures in this part of the world, take a look at our 8 Thai escapes

Want to continue your culinary odyssey with Dan? 

Part 1: Peruvian Ceviche

Part 2: Moroccan Tagine

Part 4: Spainish Paella

Part 5: Chinese Duck

Part 6: Finnish Lohikeitto

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