Larb (Thai pork salad in cabbage cups)

This recipe
  • Serves: 2
  • Ready in: 1 hour 30 minutes

My first experience of Asian food was from a Chinese takeaway many moons ago. Like so many British families, our weekend orders had staples that were banked on. Ours always featured ‘yuk sung’ (lettuce cups filled with minced meat, water chestnuts and garnished with deep-fried noodles). The myriad textures is something I’ve never forgotten. This ‘larb’ or ‘laab’, a salad from northern Thailand, shares many similarities, with the added salty tang of fish sauce giving it a distinctively Thai flavour. Where exactly the pork scratchings come into it, fuck knows.

Shopping list
  • Pork mince, 500g
  • Pork scratchings, 50g
  • White cabbage, Half a head
  • Garlic, 1 clove
  • Ginger, Thumb-sized piece
  • Birdseye chillis, 2
  • Spring onions, 6
  • Coriander, Small bunch
  • Mint, Small bunch
  • Fish sauce, 100ml
  1. First off, get browning your pork mince over a medium heat. Get your pan hot really toasty before adding the meat as you want it to colour a bit. As I used mince with a high fat content, only one teaspoon of oil is needed, if at all. Leaner mince may need a little more. After a minute, reduce the heat to low, add 6 sliced spring onions, stir and leave until cooked through. Season only with a few cracks of black pepper.
  2. Now make the dressing. In a small bowl, finely grate the ginger and garlic. Add two finely sliced chillis, a handful each of sliced mint leaves and coriander (stems and leaves) and 100ml of fish sauce. Give the contents a little stir.
  3. Check out the mince. When cooked, take off the heat, add in the dressing and stir it all around. Take to the table whilst hot.
  4. Take the cabbage. Slice it into quarters, remove the outer leave and woody core and discard. Gently peel off the outer leaves to form the cabbage cups and leave to one side.
  5. To garnish, take your handful of pork scratchings and pop them in a pestle and mortar. Bash them up a little so that some bits are like a fine dust and others offer random textures of all shapes and sizes. Take to the table.
  6. To serve, load the mince onto a cabbage cup and then sprinkle with a little of the pork scratching dust.