November 20, 2013

Recipe: Vegan Larb (Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups)

On Monday I announced that I'd won the "Urban Foodie" spot in Field Roast's "Cooks in the Field" recipe contest. Field Roast will be publishing one of my original recipes on their website each month from December 2013 through September 2014, and I am so ridiculously excited about this opportunity. I'll be sharing these recipes on the blog as soon as Field Roast has published them… starting today! Field Roast is sharing all three winners' entry recipes on their website this week: Adam's Mexican Chipotle Mushroom Boomers, Sarah's Linguine alla Checca, and my own recipe (!!!) for Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups (aka "Larb").

For my entry recipe, I decided to highlight the underappreciated cuisine of Laos, Thailand's neighbor to the east. Laotian food is often mis-labeled as Thai due to the cultural cross-over between the two countries, and as such flies under the radar of most foodies. Larb - a minced-meat "salad" often served in lettuce cups or alongside sticky rice - is considered the national dish of Laos. It's a wonderfully flavorful mix of rich meat, tart lime, bright lemongrass and ginger, funky fish sauce, a dash of dried chili, and a healthy amount of fresh mint, cilantro, and scallions. Yum, right?

My vegan Larb uses Field Roast's Classic Meatloaf to create a juicy, savory ground meat alternative - a few pulses in the food processor, and you've got minced meat! The only other necessary twist was replacing the fish sauce with my favorite combo of soy sauce and red miso (a trick from my Vegan Pad Thai). It's a simple dish to make, with a ton of complex flavors and textures. The addition of toasted rice powder - dry-toasted grains of rice that are pulverized in a spice ginder - gives the salad a surprising crunch and nuttiness, so don't be shy in sprinkling it on. You'll be glad you did.

Vegan Larb (Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups)
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon red miso
1 pound Field Roast Classic Meatloaf, roughly chopped
1/4 cup uncooked Thai sticky rice (sweet glutinous rice)
1 teaspoon neutral oil (peanut)
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass or lemongrass paste
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger (I used a microplane)
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water, to deglaze the pan
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts divided
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/3 cup chopped mint, divided
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried

Whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, and miso in a small bowl until miso dissolves. Set aside. In a food processor, pulse chopped meatloaf until it has texture of ground meat, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Place a large pan over medium heat and add the uncooked rice. Cook, stirring often, until grains are deeply golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool, then grind into a fine powder with a spice/coffee grinder. Set aside.

Return the large pan to medium-high heat and add oil, swirling to coat pan. Add lemongrass, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook briefly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground meatloaf to the pan and stir to combine with the oil and spices. Add white scallions and cook ground meatloaf for 2-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until hot and slightly browned. While cooking, deglaze the pan as needed by adding a bit of water and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all the "brown bits" (you want that flavor inside your larb, not stuck to the pan). When done, remove pan from heat, stir in the sauce, and transfer ground meatloaf to a bowl to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, stir in the green scallions, 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted rice powder, and 1/4 cup each of the cilantro and mint. To assemble lettuce wraps, place 1/4 cup of the ground meat mixture in each lettuce leaf, then garnish with remaining cilantro, mint, and toasted rice flour. Serve alongside sticky rice.

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer. Please note that my contract with Field Roast does not include any sponsored posts on Braisen Woman - all words and content of this post are my own. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such.


  1. yours is my favorite recipe! this looks delicious.

    1. Thanks so much, Melissa! Let me know if you try it out!

  2. Oh man, this looks so good and speaks to my Thai heritage! I made a vegan laab noodle dish using soy protein crumbles and chopped mushrooms on my blog but totes forgot to add fresh mint and ginger. Looks so good!

    1. Thanks! Until a couple years ago I was really hesitant to add mint to savory dishes, but MAN does it work. :) Your larb noodles sound delicious!

  3. I spent a few weeks in Laos and was always curious about the larb. I made this tonight with homemade "chicken" seitan and it was delicious. Thanks!

    1. Corrin, I'm so pleased you enjoyed it! Thanks for trying the recipe. :)