Laab / Larb
Larb made with cooked beef in Vientiane, Laos
Alternative namesLap, Larp, Lahp, Lahb, Laab
TypeSalad
Place of originLaos
Created byLao
Main ingredientsMeat (chicken, beef, duck, turkey, pork, or fish)
VariationsSeveral across the world
A Lao-style larb ped (with duck) in Chiang Mai
Larb khua mu, a stir-fried northern Thai larb made with pork, in Chiang Mai

Laab / Larb (Lao: ລາບ; Thai: ลาบ, RTGSlap, pronounced [lâːp], also spelled laap, larp, or lahb) is a type of Lao meat salad[1][2][3] that is the national dish of Laos,[4][5][6][7] along with green papaya salad[8][9] and sticky rice.[10] Laab in the Lao language is a noun that refers to meat or other flesh that has been finely chopped and pounded.[11] It is also considered a food of good luck in both Laos and Thailand because it has homonyms that mean 'lucky' in both languages, derived from लाभ in Sanskrit.[12] Laab is of Lao origin, but is also eaten in other regions, most prominently the neighboring former Lan Xang territory, or modern day Laos and the northeastern and northern areas of Thailand, Isan and Lanna where the Lao have extended their influence. Other local variants of laab also feature in the cuisines of the Tai peoples of Shan State, Burma, and Yunnan Province, China.[13]

History

Étienne François Aymonier, who visited Laos in 1883, described laab as a favorite dish of Lao people - a mixture of chopped onions or scallions, lemongrass leaves, fermented fish and chili mixed with fresh and boiled fish. The dish was eaten with steam-cooked sticky rice.[14] Another French visitor, Doctor Estrade, who arrived in 1893, described larb as a Lao main dish made with boiled fish, chili and ground roasted sticky rice.[15]

Depending on the method of preparation, it may be known by different names, including nam tok, goi/saa, yum/sua, and can be made with beef, buffalo, chicken, duck, fish, pork, shrimp, game meat, mushroom or even algae. Laab can be served raw, which is known as laab diip (raw) or aharn suer (tiger food), or cooked, and usually served with a soup made with the bones of the meat being used.[16]

Historically, laab dishes were more common amongst the aristocracy and traditional recipes for laab served to Laotian royalty are in a collection of handwritten recipes from Phia Sing (1898-1967), royal chef and master of ceremonies.[17] Laab is considered to be an auspicious and lucky dish because traditionally meat was not readily available, and most Laotians would normally eat laab at special occasions, such as wedding, New Year celebrations and festivals. Many Laotians will bless their family and guests with a meal consisting of laab for luck and good fortune. During the New Year celebration, many Lao families believe that eating laab on day one of the three-day celebration will bring good fortune for the rest of the year.[18]

Prior to the collapse of the monarchy, in Laotian high society, servants were never allowed to prepare the best and most delicate dishes. The women of Laotian high society considered it an honorable task and great opportunity to display their culinary talents to prepare laab for their esteemed guests. Among ordinary Laotians, when preparing laab, housewives would prepare the ingredients in separate containers as a mise en place, leaving the final honor of mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl to the head of the household. As tradition goes, the head of the family would start with malaxating the mincemeat - softening and incorporating it with a cupful of stock from the soup, then adding the toasted ground rice, pepper powder, garlic, salt, padaek sauce and finally chopped aromatics before serving.[19]

Laab has a meaning in the Lan Na dialect (1292-1775), the neighboring kingdom of Lan Xang (1353-1707, present day Laos). The name derived from the full word of "จิ๊นลาบ", the word "จิ๊น" translates to animal meat while "ลาบ" means to chop into smaller pieces or mince in Lanna script (closely linked to Tai Tham).[20]

Types

Lao bile laab (laab Pia in Lao) made with cooked meat, tripes, and bile
Ping sin nam tok is a variation of Lao laab dish made with beef steak and sometimes enjoyed as an appetizer with aperitif
Lao Goi made with Mekong fish enjoyed with sticky rice and plenty of fresh vegetables

Lao Sua Gai is a variation of laab made with shredded cooked chicken meat

Lao style

In Laos, depending on how the dish is prepared, it may be known by different names, including nam tok, goi/saa, yum/sua. Modern laab is most often made with chicken, beef, duck, fish, pork or mushrooms, flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, padaek, roasted ground rice and fresh herbs. The meat can be either raw or cooked; it is minced and mixed with chili, mint, roughly ground toasted rice (khao khoua) and, optionally, assorted vegetables according to personal preference. The dish is served at room temperature and usually with a serving of sticky rice and raw or fresh vegetables.[21] [22][23] Traditionally, beef laab will only contain offal, bile, and all of the other ingredients without lime juice.[24] Fish and shrimp laab are also traditionally absent lime juice but incorporate minced galangal. Compared to other laab, fish and shrimp laab does required an extra step. The deboned fish filet, or shrimp is minced, then pounded in a mortar and pestle until it turns to a gluey paste.  Padaek juice is carefully added to the mixture, and stirred to a desired consistency, before finishing off with the finely chopped galangal and other aromatic herbs.[25][26]

Main article: Nam tok (food)

Tai Nyuan/Lan Na style

Phrik lap is the mix of dried spices used in northern Thai laab.

Laab in the old kingdom of Lanna (1292-1775), is a local delicacy popular to aristocrats in the area. The name derived from the full word of "จิ๊นลาบ", the word "จิ๊น" means animal meat while "ลาบ" means to chop into smaller pieces or mince in Lanna script (closely linked to Tai Tham).[32]

Laab was enjoyed in both raw or cooked forms depends on the likings. The cooked laab is mostly roasted and, therefore, called “ลาบคั่ว” (roasted laab).

The raw laab are known as "ลาบเลือด" (blood laab), popularly eaten alongside alcohol. In the ancient times, it is made solely by men and women were banned from the process due to the notion that women could contaminate the dish with menstruated blood.[20]

Lanna people often eat laab during auspicious celebrations such as the new year or Songkran, housewarming, weddings, ordination, and other Buddhist festivities. It is influenced by the Thai word "ลาภ" (derived from Pali) homophone: meaning unexpected luck or fortune.[33]

The laab from northern Thailand where the Lao have migrated, laab Lan Na, is different from the internationally more well-known Lao style laab. The northern Thai laab of the Tai Nyuan/Khon Muang (northern Thai people)[34] does not contain fish sauce and is not sour, as neither lime juice nor any other souring agent is used. Instead, the northern Thai version uses a mix of dried spices as flavoring and seasoning which includes ingredients such as cumin, cloves, long pepper, star anise, prickly ash seeds and cinnamon amongst others, derived from the location of northern Thailand's Lan Na Kingdom on one of the spice routes to China,[35] in addition to ground dried chillies, and, in the case of laab made with pork or chicken, the blood of the animal. The dish can be eaten raw (laab dip), but also after it has been stir-fried for a short time (laab suk). If blood is omitted from the preparation of the stir-fried version, the dish is called laab khua (Thai: ลาบคั่ว). There is also a kind of laab called laab luat (Lao: ລາບເລືອດ) or lu (Thai: หลู้). This dish is made with minced raw pork or beef, raw blood, kidney, fat and bile, and mixed with spices, crispy fried onions, fresh herbs and other ingredients. Laab and its other variations are served with an assortment of fresh vegetables and herbs, and eaten with glutinous rice.[36][37][38][39][40] This version of laab is thought to have originated in the town of Phrae, in northern Thailand.[41] This style of laab can also be found in parts of northern Laos.

Health risks of consuming raw

Raw beef laab, Chiang Mai

The risks from eating raw meat include contracting trichinosis, caused by an infectious worm, along with fatal bacterial or potentially rabies infection.[42] The consumption of raw laab and lu made with raw pork has led to several cases of human Streptococcus suis infections in Thailand, some of them with a deadly result.[43]

The consumption of raw freshwater fish can lead to an infection by Opisthorchis viverrini (Southeast Asian liver fluke), a parasitical flatworm that can live for many years inside the human liver. Northern Thailand, where certain fishes are consumed fermented, has the highest recorded rate of medically untreatable cholangiocarcinoma.[44]

See also

References

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