I first experienced this dish while living in Thailand when I was teaching English for a year with a charity between school and university. Laap/Larp is a salad of Laos origin, but has become a mainstay of Thai restaurants everywhere due to the spread of Isaan food and culture from the borders of North East Thailand - partly as a result of modernisation of agricultural areas forcing farmers westward to seek work in the likes of Bangkok; partly because Isaan food is delicious! There’s not exactly a right or wrong way to make Laap, as a quick search of the web shall show, so don’t worry too much about not having certain ingredients. As you’ll see, my version here came simply from what I could get my hands on at the time.
Laap is very much salad for carnivores. Apart from some onion and herbs, it’s all meat (oh yeaaaah). It's usually eaten as a side dish rather than a main event; not that that’s stopped me before… A common sight in Thailand and Laos would be a number of people sharing plates of laap (either pork or chicken), som tam, grilled chicken or pork, and sticky rice. By making balls from the sticky rice, which is eaten with your hands, you can also soak up any excess sauce and savour every last drop! In my version here I have replaced the usual minced pork or chicken with grilled pork steaks that I then diced up. I have similarly omitted ground toasted rice due to my lacking a mortar and pestle on the day, but would thoroughly recommend adding it yourself. I would also recommend giving lemon mint a try if you can find it, as it added a whole other dimension to the dish. —Mark Low
Grill pork loin steaks on bbq or griddle pan until just cooked and nicely coloured on both sides. Put to side to allow to cool.
Heat oils in pan. Finely dice the onion and chilli before adding to pan. Cook out to remove raw onion taste while retaining a bit of bite.
Once cool enough to handle, dice cooked pork steaks and add to pan.
Add the ground toasted rice.
Add lime juice and fish sauce. Combine and cook momentarily before removing from heat and adding finely chopped mint (I used lemon mint in this instance which added a really interesting floral/citrus tang).
Allow to cool until just warm or room temperature, season to taste with added fish sauce and lime, garnish with extra mint leaves and serve.