We have always eaten quite a lot of Thai food even back in the UK; it's a cuisine we both enjoy. Here in Brunei of course the necessary ingredients are much easier to find, so we're able to cook and eat Thai meals more often.
Laab is one of our favourite Thai dishes, but it requires no special or unusual ingredients, so is simple to prepare in whatever country you find yourself cooking!
I say there are no 'unusual' ingredients, but perhaps the addition of toasted and ground uncooked rice might seem odd to many! It does give the finished dish a somewhat gritty texture, but that's not something we object to. Try it and see. I think of the toasted rice as giving the finished dish a slightly 'nutty' taste.
We serve it in one of two ways - either with some crisp lettuce leaves (Little Gem work well) or wedges of steamed white cabbage. You spoon some Laab onto the leaf and then use the leaf like a sort of shovel to transport the Laab mouthwards! Not the most elegant way of eating perhaps, but extremely satisfying.
half a pound of pork or chicken mince
4 tbsp water (or stock, or water with chicken stock from concentrate)
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped - we like to cut them into approximately 2cm lengths, cut on the diagonal
large handful of mint leaves
1 chopped red chili (Thai birdseye)
small handful of uncooked rice, toasted and pulverised in a blender or food processor
glug of fish sauce, to taste
1 lime - juice of half a lime to go into the laab, and serve the other half cut into wedges on each plate to squeeze over as you wish
To serve - crisp lettuce, or wedges of steamed cabbage
Toast the uncooked rice in a dry frying pan until medium-brown. Let it cool then blitz in a blender or food processor until well-ground.
Put the mince into a pan - no need to add oil, just add the water (or stock). Simmer until cooked through and the liquid mostly evaporated. You don't need the mince to brown at all.
Turn off the heat. Add all the other ingredients and stir well. The mint leaves will wilt and the spring onion soften slightly though still retain most of its crispness. You could also add coriander leaves if you wish, although I prefer to let the flavour of the mint come through unimpeded by other herbs.
Taste to see if you have the right balance of lime juice and fish sauce, then serve with a wedge of lime on the plate and a bottle of fish sauce on the table.
As this is so quick to cook you need to start steaming the wedges of cabbage (if you serve that instead of lettuce) at about the same time as you start cooking the meat.
This could be made a little in advance, but we have learnt from experience that the toasted rice mustn't be added until the very end of the preparation, as it goes very stodgy as it absorbs the liquid in the dish.
As you can see, it's a pretty healthy dish with no fat other than what is in the meat. I always feel quite virtuous eating it - and yet it doesn't feel like you're doing without, it's so tasty and zingy.
A similar recipe can be found here at the excellent Thaitable.com website.
Excuse the slightly too-dark photos, the lighting in our kitchen isn't great, and I was keen to get the Laab to the table so we could eat! I can't be doing with 'styling' my food when I'm that hungry. :-)