Every time I go to a Thai restaurant my absolute favorite dishes are papaya salad + larb. Larb, which can also be spelt laap, larp or laab, is a Lao meat salad often made with minced pork + is a beautiful spicy-salty-sour-savory dance of flavors. Here is my vegan larb version using tofu instead of meat + tamari instead of the traditional fish sauce!
To create the amazing flavor we’ll use chili, lime + fresh herbs. If you’ve never had larb before you MUST try this low-carb, light ever-so-flavorful, simple dish!
So. Much. Green. The bones of this recipe include lots of lime, scallions, mint, cilantro, lemongrass + of course Thai chilies for the spice! Lemongrass + Thai chilies can be found at Asian grocery stores but since I know not everyone has access I made the recipe delicious without the lemongrass + give the option of serrano chilies (which I personally used).
For this recipe it was too cold to walk to the Asian grocery store so I walked to my local Thai restaurant + asked if I could buy fresh lemongrass from them. They looked at me a little strange but sold me each one for $1! 🙂 Maybe give that a try! 🙂 If you do use lemongrass make sure you are cutting it correctly or it can be fibrous – here’s a quick video to show you!
I must admit I don’t eat tofu often + only eat it in crumbled form, usually as a tofu scramble. But it works PERFECTLY to mimic the minced meat traditionally in larb + is truly a blank canvas with flavor allowing the lime, chili + herbs to really take the front seat.
The only cooking portion of this meal is to cook the tofu then all the rest of the ingredients go into the pot/skillet with the tofu while the heat is turned off. This makes it so you don’t cook off any of the great flavors + allows them to all come together. If you can wait I actually like to let it sit for ~30 minutes so it can marinate + it then becomes even better! It’s traditionally eaten with sticky rice but in the summer I usually go with the lettuce wrapped option + in the winter I love it with jasmine rice where the rice acts like a sponge for all the extra sauce!
- 1 (14 oz) package of organic extra firm tofu
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, cut in half + thinly sliced in half moons
- 1 tbsp fresh lemongrass, trimmed + sliced in thin rounds (optional)
- 1 Thai chili or serrano chili*, deseeded + very thinly sliced
- juice of 2 limes
- 2-3 tbsp tamari/coconut aminos/soy sauce
- 1 tsp Thai roasted chili paste/chili-garlic sauce/crushed red pepper (optional)
- pinch (~1/8 tsp) of sugar (I used coconut sugar)
- 2 scallions, thinly chopped
- ¼ cup (15 g) fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup (6 g) fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- lettuce or cabbage leaves
- cucumber slices
- sticky or jasmine rice
- drain the tofu, wrap it in a towel + place something heavy on top (I used my cast iron skillet). allow the liquid to drain for ~30 minutes
- heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. crumble the tofu to a ground meat texture with your hands into the skillet + allow it to cook + brown a bit, approximately 5 minutes
- add the shallots, lemongrass, + chili then stir + allow to cook for 30 seconds
- turn off the heat. add the lime juice, tamari, chili paste, sugar, + scallions then mix thoroughly
- add cilantro + mint leaves then stir one last time gently
- taste. does it need anything? I almost always add more lime since I love it sour + tamari for saltiness/umami flavor
- serve garnished with cilantro + mint leaves either in lettuce/cabbage leaves or on top of rice