I had the great fortune of living right next to Thai Town when I used to call Los Angeles home. There was a restaurant that served amazing drunk food called Hollywood Thai. With a name like that, one probably wouldn't expect much. We are, after all, talking about drunk food, and a place that serves beer — ahem, "tea" — surreptitiously in teapots after 2 a.m., when all other bars have closed by law in the city of angels.
One of my favorite dishes there was a traditional northeastern Thai dish from the region of Chiang Mai called larb (also spelled laab). It's a "salad" in the sense that it comes with a wedge of cabbage. What you're supposed to do with this cabbage isn't apparent at first until someone at the table puts two and two together and breaks off a leaf of cabbage and uses it as a spoon.
Commonly found at many Thai restaurants worth visiting, I swore by Hollywood Thai's rendition of the dish, which was inexplicably addictive. Well, perhaps not inexplicable — my version here is missing the key ingredient, MSG.
See all beef recipes.
- 1 Pound ground beef
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1/4 Cup Jasmine or short-grain rice
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 Cup loosely packed basil, torn
- 1/4 Cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped
- 3 dried Thai bird's-eye chiles
- 1/2 head green cabbage, cut into 3 wedges, for serving
In a bowl, combine the ground beef and lime juice. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toast until golden, tossing occasionally to make sure it colors evenly. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
Heat the same skillet over high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the oil, and when hot, add the beef. Cook until browned completely, about 5-7 minutes. Drain in a colander and reserve any juices. Transfer the beef to a medium-sized bowl.
Place the rice in a coffee grinder and grind until it resembles fine cornmeal. Sprinkle the toasted rice powder over the beef and combine with the basil, cilantro, fish sauce, scallion, and chiles. If it looks a little dry, add some of the reserved cooking liquid. Serve with the cabbage wedges.