I’m totally enamoured with the combination of cooling mint and scorching chili heat that so often pops up in Southeast Asian food. Admittedly, I seem to have an affinity for anything that guarantees a fiery finish but the addition of fresh mint turns the wonderful into the sublime. If I had my way, I’d eat food like this constantly in the summer, although I’m usually not so cruelly forced to make my own version; eating out at Vietnamese restaurants is risky business with a peanut allergy. Because of this risk factor, my versions of traditional restaurants are often bastardized versions of a bastardized version. That is to say, completely inauthentic. This version of Vietnamese pork larb is a joke of a recipe if you’ve tried the original, but let’s just say I had the original loosely floating around in my mind when I first made this. I also don’t usually serve it in lettuce wraps, but on a bed of jasmine rice which I put in my rice cooker before I begin making this recipe. The nice thing about this recipe, if you’re cooking for only one or two people, is that it makes some very handy leftovers for future use. I’ve even gone a step further down the bastardization chain and made a version of Southeast Asian-inspired soft tacos with shredded cabbage, pickled red onions and shredded carrots, Greek yogurt, and heaping handfuls of fresh mint, basil, and cilantro. I also use up leftovers for bright little lunches to tide me over until I can get outside in the sun (or rain, which in some ways I love even more). Whether I make this for dinner and it gets eaten immediately or I pack it up for lunch, I always add several more heaping spoonfuls of Sambal Oelek, although it’s entirely up to you how much extra heat you’d like to add (if any).
minced pork with fiery chilies and fresh herbs:
1 lb. minced pork
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. Sambal Oelek
Freshly cracked pepper
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
Juice of 1-3 fresh limes (use 1 if you’re lucky enough to use a juicy lime, use 3 if they’re duds – or just use bottled lime juice)
3 or more bird’s eye chilies, sliced thinly with the seeds
1-2 bunches of scallions, white and green parts sliced thinly
Lots of roughly chopped fresh mint, cilantro, and Thai basil (regular works just as well)
- In a large skillet heat up the vegetable oil over medium heat and add the ground pork or chicken. Break it up a little bit with a spatula and add the soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce, Sambal Oelek, lots of freshly cracked pepper, brown sugar, lime juice, chilies, and scallions.
- Allow the meat to cook, stirring occasionally. Let the liquid evaporate almost completely until you have a small amount of sticky and very flavourful sauce left and the meat is fragrant.
- Serve over steamed rice or in lettuce wraps, topped with heaping amounts of fresh herbs and extra Sambal Oelek.
Gosh, I have such a soft spot for 4AD Records! And Ultra Vivid Scene! And Kim Deal! Luckily for me, they’re all together in this happy little song. I’m going through my annual summer obsession with The Breeders, Belly,Lush, and Throwing Muses – I feel right at home in my flower print button up sun dresses and Ultra Vivid Scene playing while I cook and dance around the kitchen.
Ultra Vivid Scene – Special One