Thai pork salad (larb)

In Thailand, larb is part of a meal that includes roast chicken, sticky rice, and papaya salad (somtam). Aroy maak! This is America’s Test Kitchen’s version of that delicious Thai salad. Traditionally, it is served warm or at room temperature. This dish comes from the northeastern region of Thailand called Isaan. ATK’s version is missing two key ingredients: chopped cooked chicken innards and chopped fresh chilies. As I’m not a fan of these parts of the chicken, I don’t miss them, but chopped fresh chilies, not just dried chilies, I do. Adding chopped chilies could increase the heat of this dish to inedible for some, and unless your palate is trained for this, I wouldn’t advise it!  As it is, this version isn’t bad. It’s missing something though; I think it’s not sour enough. Larb is, typically, salty, sour, sweet, and spicy. Anyway, as in all cooking, it’s a matter of adjusting the dish to suit your taste.

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), trimmed of silver skin and fat, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon white rice (see note)
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium shallots , peeled and sliced into thin rings (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (add more, to taste)
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves head
1 head Boston lettuce, washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole

1. Place pork chunks on large plate in single layer. Freeze meat until firm and starting to harden around edges but still pliable, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your freezer. The Teeny Tiny Kitchen freezer took 40 minutes! Sigh.

2. Meanwhile, heat rice in small skillet over medium-high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool 5 minutes. Grind rice with spice grinder, mini food processor, or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1 tablespoon rice powder). It’s not necessary to wash out the food processor for the next step.

Cook’s Note: My food processor wasn’t able to grind the rice into a fine powder. I definitely need a spice grinder for this.

3. Place half of meat in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, 5 to six 1-second pulses. Transfer ground meat to medium bowl and repeat with remaining chunks. Stir 1 tablespoon fish sauce into ground meat and marinate, refrigerated, 15 minutes.

4. Bring broth to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, stirring frequently, until about half of pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over pork; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until remaining pork is no longer pink, 1 to 11⁄2 minutes longer. Transfer pork to large bowl; let cool 10 minutes.

5. Add remaining 11⁄2 tablespoons fish sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint, and cilantro to pork; toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature with lettuce leaves.