Summer is fast approaching, and I for one couldn’t be happier! I’m a sun dweller who revels in summertime’s sultry days and warm nights. But like many, I do not enjoy turning on the oven when the temperatures began to soar. Salads are wonderful and I certainly enjoy my share of them, but sometimes you need something with a bit more substance.
Larb is a dish that first appeared approximately 300 years ago in Tai – the Northern area of Thailand. It also frequents in Laos, Burma, and China. Although it seems like a relatively inexpensive dish, it’s traditionally considered to be expensive to make and is reserved for special occasions. Larb is a cultural dish that’s expected at all celebrations. The dish is primarily made with lamb, water buffalo, or finely-chopped chicken mixed with spices and the heat of Thai chilies. The meat is served with fresh vegetables, sticky rice, and big leaves of lettuce to use as a wrap. The dish is spicy and salty with a touch of sweetness from the coconut sugar.
Water buffalo and ground lamb are not quite as common here in the US, so I chose to substitute them with ground turkey. Ground turkey is also lower in fat than the other meats, making it a light health-based choice for warm summer evenings. Have fun, leave the oven off, and enjoy this taste of international cuisine!
Turkey Larb Lettuce Wrap Recipe
Yields 4-6 servings
- 1 lemongrass stalk
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ bunch fresh cilantro (roughly chopped)
- ⅛ cup red onion (minced)
- 4 red dried Thai chiles (rehydrated)
- ½ cup roasted salted peanuts (roughly chopped)
- 3 Tablespoons lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
- 1 lb. ground turkey
Remove the outer leaves of the lemongrass stalks and roughly chop. Place the lemongrass and garlic cloves into a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add the cilantro, onion, and one of the Thai chiles. Pulse to combine. Roughly chop the peanuts, slice the remaining chiles. Set aside.
Whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, and coconut sugar. In a large skillet, add the oil and ground turkey. Cook on medium-high heat until almost cooked through. Add the lime juice / fish sauce / coconut sugar mixture to the turkey. Cook until browned. Remove the meat from the pan, and set aside. In the same pan, add the lemongrass and garlic. Cook until soft and golden brown. Add the meat back into the pan, as well as the peanuts, and stir to combine.
Serve with cooked white rice (jasmine is preferred), 8-12 Bibb lettuce leaves and sliced cucumber. Garnish with lime wedges, mint sprigs, and cilantro.o.