Pork Larb with Spaghetti Squash
This Southeast Asian-inspired dish pairs the flavors of Thailand and Vietnam with healthy spaghetti squash.
Serves: 4 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: N/A
Pork Larb with Spaghetti Squash
Adapted from Serious Eats
I have a confession to make: I’m a boring restaurant orderer.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like to mix it up with the best of them. If there’s a part of a pig on the menu that I’ve never heard of before (as long as it’s not the chuckle), or some kind of crazy vegetable that looks like it grew underneath a rock in Narnia (I’m looking at you romanesco), or maybe a fish I’ve never heard of before that’s been secretly smuggled into the country from Nepal by part of the Dalai Lama’s entourage and which my waiter insists is “only available right now, this moment, and will never be attainable again”, then I’m sold.
Larb is a dish with Laotian origins that can also be found in Northern Thailand, and often appears on Thai menus. Made of minced or ground meat (typically pork or chicken), it’s a savory dish redolent with the scent of lime juice, fish sauce, chilis, and herbs.
The problem is that, even as a food writer, not every meal can be grilled Mediterranean sardines with gigante beans grown in the Pope’s private garden, or a traditional sausage sourced from a five-thousand-year-old haunted Bavarian schloss, or even a simple taco with a properly nixtamalized corn tortilla. Sometimes dinner is going to be from the substandard pizza joint from down the street whose delivery radius we’re in, or it’s going to be from a place two blocks away everyone in DC is sure serves authentic Mexican food (they don’t). More often than not, it’s going to be thai food, and I’m going to order a panang curry or a pad thai, because I’m boring and don’t want to deal with ordering in something that I’m not guaranteed to enjoy.
There’s comfort in this, but there’s also complacency. It’s because I’m being a lazy dummy that I don’t order something like larb, the recipe being presented to you right now. Larb is a dish with Laotian origins that can also be found in Northern Thailand, and often appears on Thai menus. Made of minced or ground meat (typically pork or chicken), it’s a savory dish redolent with the scent of lime juice, fish sauce, chilis, and herbs. It’s also a dish that frequently incorporates different vegetables, and Foq’s version, which includes spaghetti squash, is an excellent iteration.
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Begin by placing a large saucepan or frying pan over medium heat. Add one cup of glutinous rice to the dry pan and toast until fragrant and golden brown, taking care to keep the rice moving in the pan in order to prevent it from burning. Once the rice has been toasted remove it from the pan and let it cool on a plate for approximately ten minutes. Once cooled, transfer to a mortar and pestle (or small spice grinder) and pulverize until the consistency of coarsely ground pepper. Set aside for later use.
Next, place the same saucepan over medium-high heat and add three tablespoons of peanut oil. When the oil is shimmering add the shallots and jalapeno and sauté, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pork, lemon grass, and fish sauce to the pan and break up the pork until no large pieces remain. Cook the pork until no pink remains, but take care not to let the pork brown as we want it to remain tender. If the pork begins to brown, reduce the heat a little and add one tablespoon of water.
When the pork has finished cooking, remove from heat and add cilantro, thail basil, mint, lime juice, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup toasted rice powder. Mix all the ingredients together until they’re evenly distributed amongst the pork and then add the cooked spaghetti squash to the pan. Mix together until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and then plate immediately. Top with additional chopped cilantro and toasted rice powder if desired.
Here’s how to make this delicious recipe
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the glutinous rice and dry toast until fragrant and golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for ten minutes on a plate.
Dry toast the glutinous rice until fragrant and golden
When cool, transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and pulverize until it has the consistency of coarsely ground pepper. Set aside.
Place the same saucepan over medium-high heat and add peanut oil. When oil is shimmering add shallots and jalapeno and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add pork, lemon grass, and fish sauce and break up until no large pieces of pork remain.
Break up the pork until no large pieces remain
Cook the pork until no pink remains, about 5 minutes, and do not allow to brown. If the pork begins to brown, reduce heat and add 1 tablespoon of water.
When pork is finished cooking, remove from heat and add cilantro, thai basil, mint, lime juice, 1/2 cup toasted rice powder, and brown sugar to the pan. Mix until all ingredients are distributed evenly and add spaghetti squash to the pan. Mix again until evenly distributed and plate immediately. If desired, top with additional toasted rice powder and garnish with cilantro.
- 1 cup dry short-grain glutinous rice (also known as sticky rice or sweet rice)
- 3 tbsp peanut oil
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1 jalapeno seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 stalk of lemon grass fibrous outer layers removed and tender core finely chopped
- 4 scallions thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped thai basil
- 1/4 cup chopped mint
- 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar packed
- 3 cups spaghetti squash liquid squeezed out
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Who’s Cooking Today
Jacob Dean is a freelance food and travel writer, recipe tester, and culinary product reviewer based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The Cook’s Cook Magazine, DCist, Industree, has freelanced as a recipe tester for the New York Times, and has been published by the Washington Post. Jacob has tried over twelve hundred unique beers (he keeps count).
You can find him online at jacobdeanwrites.com, on Twitter as @SchadenJake, and on Facebook as Jacob Dean Writes.
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