Water Buffalo Larb (for when tradition goes out the window)

I love larb — it’s one of my favorite meals to eat when it’s hot outside and I’m craving something spicy but light. Larb (a dish that hails from Laos and Thailand) is often prepared with ground pork, but I have also made it with ground turkey, just for health purposes. Even with such a lean meat, the lime juice, chilis and fish sauce keep it flavorful and delicious.

This time around I decided to go really out there and make it with some ground local water buffalo that I had on hand, another perk of my job as a meat distributor. Water buffalo is very lean and a bit beefy (more so than regular bison) so it seemed like a good fit for this dish.

Larb is often served with lettuce to use as a wrap. But I didn’t have any greens so I made up a pot of coconut rice as a base. This way all the juicy goodness could soak into something. And since tradition was clearly forsaken, I decided to add some more vegetables as well, since so far the meal was just meat and rice.

Before I started cooking, I decided to work on my garnish for the dish, which was also part of my desire to add some fiber. I took a few carrots and grated them into a bowl. Then I poured some boiling hot rice wine vinegar over them, along with salt, a dash of sugar and hot chili oil. Then I let them sit and marinate until the meal was ready. They were still very crunchy, which was perfect, and also tangy enough to cut through the rich coconut rice. And, let’s face, just plain pretty and colorful in the scheme of things, two important things in garnish picking.

Anyways…on to the larb:

I started with summer squash, an onion and a good amount of minced chili pepper and garlic. Once that mixture was just starting to get tender, I added the ground water buffalo to the pan.Next I added chopped green onions and the “sauce, ” which consists of fish sauce, lime juice and a wee bit of brown sugar.

After the meat was cooked through and tasting delicious (tangy, spicy), I added the chopped mint leaves and it was ready to go.

And yes, I totally used a plate with French script. Because I’m all about fusion.

Domesticity’s (totally inauthentic) Larb

Basics (sauté together in olive oil until tender/fully cooked)

  • 1 lb. ground water buffalo, bison or turkey (or pork if you swing that way)
  • 1 each yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 each medium summer squash, diced
  • 1 each (more or less, depending on your spice tolerance) serrano chili, minced

“Sauce” and Accompaniments (easily adjustable to your taste buds!)

  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4 TB fish sauce
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • Handful of chopped mint leaves
  • Splash of coconut milk (optional, I just had some leftover from the rice)

Enjoy with rice, lettuce for making wraps, toasted peanuts and/or pickled veggies.

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