Herby Sardines in the Style of Laap

May 12, 2022
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Photo by Julia Gartland. Food stylist: Yossy Arefi. Prop stylist: Megan Hedgepeth.
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Laap is a classic salad-style Laotian dish typically made of minced pork and fragrant herbs in a piquant spicy fish sauce dressing. The meal is extremely versatile and works with any ground meat, fish or tofu. Here, bold sardines and meaty mushrooms cook together to create the rich and flavorful filling. Laap is unique in that it delivers spicy, sour, sweet and salty in each bite; the dipping sauce blends briny fish sauce, tart lime juice, spicy fresh chiles and just enough sugar for perfect balance. For a milder sauce, remove the seeds from the chile before chopping (a pinch of red chile flakes will also do the trick). Steamed rice is a classic side for serving with laab, but any leftover cooked grain of choice would be delicious (such as farro, wheatberries or quinoa).

Canned sardines supply a ton of nutrients—protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and calcium to name a few—and can be enjoyed in many tasty and fun ways. They’re great tucked into sandwiches and on avocado toast. Add them to salads or any basic pasta for a more complete meal. Look for good-quality fillets, which are meaty and firm with a clean taste (not mushy, oily or fishy). As with other tinned fish, look for ones that are sustainably-sourced from certified fisheries. —kay chun

What You'll Need
  • Spicy Dipping Sauce
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 Thai chile, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons sliced scallions
  • Kosher salt
  • Sardine Larb
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced (¼-inch)
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces French green beans, trimmed and sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
  • 4 (4.25-ounce) cans sardines packed in water, drained and bones discarded
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • Lettuce cups, cooked short grain rice, cilantro sprigs, and lime wedges, for serving
  1. Make the spicy dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients with 2 tablespoons of water and season with salt. Mix well.
  2. Make the sardine larb: In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Stir in French beans, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, until beans start to soften, 2 minutes. Add sardines and 2 tablespoons of the Spicy Dipping Sauce and cook, stirring to break up the sardines, until mixture is well blended and beans are tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the scallions.
  3. Serve sardine larb with lettuce cups, rice, cilantro sprigs and lime wedges. To enjoy, spoon some rice and larb into lettuce cups, top with cilantro sprigs and squeeze over lime juice. Serve with the remaining Spicy Dipping Sauce on the side.

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