thai pork larb with macadamias
Sometimes, when you are a little weary, a smidgen under the weather and just a tiny bit tired, your body will tell you what it needs.
(More often than not, it will say “a donut please!”, and sometimes, though not always, it’s best to wait until that particular craving subsides.)
But this past weekend, with a week of work and a day of moving-back-out-of-Glebe ahead of us, the cry was simple and clear.
“Vegetables! Salad! Herbs! Fruit!”
And whilst we nodded in agreement and hustled to the car to collect said ingredients, the post script came.
“Oh, and could you please make it tasty? Please?”
I keep a list of recipe ideas on my phone.
They are typed in late at night – products of dreams from which I am rudely awakened just before I take the first bite. They are scribbled down (and, later, dutifully transcribed) as I talk to friends about meals they’ve had, ingredients they’ve seen. They are keyed in carefully after pouring through seasonal growing guides and contemplating flavour pairings.
It’s a habit that’s served me well when I’m foggy-brained and muddle-headed. When the thought of picking something for lunch on a sunny Saturday afternoon seems beyond me.
Because there, sitting third-item-on-the-list, was a note that said:
“Make thai larb with macadamias. Chicken? Pork? San Choy Bow style?”
Thank you past-Shez.
This is not your typical Thai salad recipe. It has Thai ingredients, and it has the essential elements of a larb recipe (fried mince meat dressed in a fish sauce and lime dressing), but it’s… well… TSZUJ‘D.
I couldn’t help myself. (I never can when I’m at the markets).
A bag of fat, purple shallots, and one of long red chillis and another of plump ginger roots were procured from one stall for a mere $5.
Handfuls of herbs – two of mint and one each of coriander and vietnamese mint – along with a bunch of spring onions and two juicy limes were purchased at another for $8.
A tight-leafed lettuce, crisp and the palest of greens (the size of a baby’s round head) was selected from in amongst its $1.80 counterparts and a bagful of mandarins and two punnets of strawberries (at just $1.00 per punnet) came along to play for dessert.
After the herbs had been washed and plucked and thrown in iced water.
After the shallots and ginger, chilli and lime zest had mellowed and infused their flavour into the sweet and salty and sour and funky dressing.
After the ground pork had been seasoned and fried and transformed into crisp little nuggets.
After the toasted macadamias had been chopped and mixed through.
After all of this, we sat in the sunshine of our last weekend in Glebe, with the housemates that had embraced us for the past three-or-so months, plates scattered on the table.
And as we wrapped the pork and macadamias and herbs (and more herbs please!) and slivers of chilli that were held just the right amount of heat in lettuce cups, we talked of boyfriends and nights out and purple plushies and sleep. We talked of good wine and cheap wine and more wine and beer. We talked of oddities and habits and the rainbow lorikeets that would do anything for a bite of fruit.
And then we opened our mouths and took our first bites of lunch and didn’t speak again for 40 whole seconds (which in a house of girls + Koji may just go down as some sort of record).
Oh it was good. The flavours popped on even the most inactive of our sickness-dulled tastebuds. The scent of the herbs had our sinuses cleared and our eyes popped open from the chilli and lime.
But it was the macadamias that had us all surprised – firm and creamy, toasted and nutty in amongst the melee of flavour.
The meat felt richer than it was, the herbs more crisp, the sun even brighter and the birds more melodic.
I’m going to miss that apartment.
- 750g pork mince
- 1 tbsp (20ml) light soy sauce
- 1 tsp cornflour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp finely ground white pepper
- 2 tbsp (40ml) fish sauce
- ¼ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp brown sugar (or palm sugar)
- 2 limes
- 2 shallots (the ones that look like mini onions)
- 1 long red chilli
- 1 knob of ginger (about 3cm long)
- 125g whole macadamias
- 1 tbsp (20ml) cooking oil
- 1 ice berg lettuce
- handfuls of mint, vietnamese mint, coriander and chopped spring onions to serve
- Combine the pork mince, soy sauce, salt, pepper and cornflour in a bowl and knead them all together until everything has soaked into the meat. Leave this aside to marinade while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. Slice the shallots and chilli finely and add it to the bowl along with the zest and juice of two limes.
- Peel and grate the ginger and add it to the fish sauce bowl. Give all of the ingredients a good stir and set it aside to combine.
- Heat a frying pan or wok over a high heat and add the macadamias (without any oil). Toss them every now and then until they are golden and a little bit scorched on the outside. Chop them up roughly and set aside.
- Now add the oil to the wok or frying pan and heat it until it is shimmering. Fry the pork up, half at a time, chopping it up and turning it with a spatula or wooden spoon. Keep cooking the pork until it is crisp around the edges, glistening, and some of it has started to stick to the pan. Repeat with the remaining pork.
- Mix the cooked pork, roasted macadmias and dressing together in a large bowl.
- To serve, wash and pull apart handfuls of the herbs and separate the leaves of the lettuce. Spoon some larb on the lettuce cups, add chopped herbs to your liking, roll and eat!