Laab – a Laotian sautéed meat salad – is to Laos what paella is to Spain. Lao-American chef Darleen Vanmanivong, whose Crossroads Collective pop-up restaurant Thum runs through October, achieves the delicate balance of lightness and intensity that makes this salad such a treasure.
In her minced chicken laab, Vanmanivong uses a traditional blend of aromatics – lemongrass, sweet-spicy galangal root, kaffir lime leaves, mint, cilantro, along with pungent fish sauce, tart lime juice, fried garlic and crispy toasted rice powder. She grinds and chops all of her ingredients by hand, which is apt since the name of her restaurant refers to the pounding motion of a mortar and pestle.
To eat your laab, wrap the meat with the accompanying sticky rice, sliced carrot and cucumber inside a lettuce leaf, then savor the complex flavors and fusion of warm and cool foods.