This pork larb recipe for Cambodian laab sach chrouk minced pork salad makes a lightly spiced dish eaten with fragrant herbs, crispy vegetables and steamed rice. While it has more famous spicier cousins in Thailand and Laos, Cambodia’s larb is a delicious dish that will appeal to those who prefer more gentle levels of spice.
Our pork larb recipe for Cambodian laab sach chrouk minced pork salad makes a lightly spiced dish eaten with fragrant herbs, crispy vegetables and steamed rice. While it has more famous spicier cousins in Thailand and Laos, Cambodia’s larb is a delicious dish that will appeal to those who prefer more gentle levels of spice.
This pork larb recipe makes Cambodia’s laab sach chrouk, a stir-fried minced pork salad that’s combined with fresh fragrant herbs, infused with the delightfully funky flavour of fish sauce, dusted with toasted rice powder, and served with crunchy vegetables and steamed rice.
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Pork Larb Recipe for Cambodian Laab Sach Chrouk – A Fragrant Pork Mince Salad
We’ve been cooking and eating Thai larb since the 1980s when we first began cooking and eating Thai food in Australia, but it wasn’t until we moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia, from Vietnam in 2013 that we first tasted Cambodia’s wonderful pork laab – also spelt as larb and lab here in Cambodia.
Like the Cambodian-Chinese rice porridge called borbor, which we posted about yesterday, Cambodians have really made their take on the larb their own. It’s very much a case of ‘same same but different’ when you compare the Cambodian laab sach chrouk minced pork salad to the larb minced salads from Thailand and Laos.
The differences between this pork larb recipe and other larb salads are subtle. The Thai larbs are more spicy, the Lao larbs are more earthy, and the Cambodian larbs are more fragrant. We love them all. But if you’re a fan of fiery chillies you’re going to prefer the Thai larb. If you’re a lover of earthy flavours and offal, you’ll be drawn to the Laotian larbs.
But if you prefer more gently-spiced dishes and more of a balance between spice, herbs and funkiness, then you are going to love this pork larb recipe for Cambodian laab sach chrouk minced pork salad.
Tips for Making this Cambodian Pork Larb Recipe
My first tip to making this Cambodian pork larb recipe is one that I have to admit I’m very embarrassed about having just stumbled upon. For many years – more than I care to specify – I’ve battled with mince for larb, chillis and ragu to stop the mince from clumping. I’ve used all kinds of kitchen equipment, from wooden spatulas to potato mashers to de-clump (yes, I think that’s a word I just made up) my mince.
The secret I have recently discovered is to use a stainless steel whisk of the like you would probably use to whip a hollandaise sauce. Well, it’s also perfect to keep your mince from clumping.
My second tip for making this Cambodian pork larb recipe is to do with your chillies. With both the Thai and the Cambodian versions, we use both fresh birds-eye chillies and chilli flakes, sometimes called crushed chillies, but not chilli powder. If you don’t like a lot of chilli, you can leave the chilli flakes out and serve them as a condiment on the table and let people add their own.
If you’re also not a fish sauce lover, you can do the same. Some people will want more or less fish sauce than others, so go easy if you’re uncertain and then leave a bottle of fish sauce on the table with your other condiments. We like to use Cambodian fish sauces for Cambodian dishes, but you probably won’t find them outside the country. A good all-purpose fish sauce is the Thai brand Megachef.
Thirdly, when making this Cambodian pork larb recipe it’s good to hold back on your fresh fragrant herbs and add them once the dish has cooled down a little, otherwise the heat will turn them brown. Add them just before eating and they’ll give a real freshness to the dish.
Finally, many Cambodian pork larb recipes include baby eggplants as a side vegetable. Feel free to add them. I haven’t as we like to use vegetables that can be either dipped in or can serve as ‘cups’ to hold the salad. This gives you even more fresh elements to each mouthful. While you can make a ‘parcel’ with the lettuce, I like using a piece of cabbage as a scoop for larb.
However you like to eat it, this Cambodian pork larb recipe makes a fantastic sharing dish, especially when served as a family meal with an array of dishes, such as a plate of barbecue pork ribs, some smoky skewers, a big pot of soup, and a rich Cambodian curry.
Cambodian Pork Larb Recipe
- Carbon Steel Wok
- Stainless Steel Whisk
- 300 g pork
- 2 tbsp chicken stock
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 garlic cloves finely sliced
- 3 limes 2 juiced
- 2 tbsp rice toasted and ground
- 4 shallots sliced thinly
- 3 birds-eye chillies sliced finely
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- ½ bunch coriander
- ½ head round lettuce
- 1 handful snake beans
- 1 piece cucumber sliced
- ¼ piece head cabbage
- Heat the chicken stock in a wok until boiling. Add the pork mince and cook over medium heat until it’s no longer pink.
- Break up any clumps of mince with a stainless steel whisk.
- Add the lime juice, half the fish sauce, half of the shallots the garlic. Stir to incorporate and sprinkle over the chilli flakes. Add half of the bird-eye chillies.
- Check the seasoning and add extra fish sauce to taste.
- When read to serve, sprinkle over the toasted rice and the rest of the ingredients.
- Serve with the vegetables.
Do let us know if you make this Cambodian Larb recipe in the comments below, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.
Cath Baxter says
We have been big fans of Thai style Larb but we enjoyed this Cambodian style Larb even more. We added a stalk of fresh lemongrass, side serve of Jasmine rice and used Wombok cabbage. We loved it so much, we are making it for dinner again tonight.
Lara Dunston says
Hi Cath, sounds great! So pleased you enjoyed it! If you like Thai curries, try our Cambodian chicken curry next. Cambodian curries are more gentle than Thai curries, but they always serve a small dish of finely chopped bird’s eye chillies on the side so those who like a bit of heat can add them to their own dish. People here don’t universally love fiery food. Some do and some don’t – like in Australia – but if you prefer some heat you can always add it to the curry pot. Thanks for dropping by!
Michelle Knibbs says
Hi Lara, as always love following you and your delicious food. It’s a very difficult time for all us and I feel for both of you trying to complete and promote your Cambodia Cookbook project ..I’m with Qantas at Brisbane Airport..need I say more ?✈️?..
What can’t be restrained is our love of food..I was so excited to see the Mega Chef bottle of fish sauce in a recent behind the scenes shot. I love this brand – using the Soy, Fish and the Anchovy..have never used anything else since reading about the conception of the brand in either Gourmet Traveller or Vogue Entertaining many moons ago.
Id love you to do a story on the company and perhaps uses. The Anchovy in particular as Im using it in western cooking ie Bolognase sauce and casseroles as that real depth of salt .
Mega Chef is much more widely available in Australia than it ever used to, though still somewhat unknown and Id love to see the brand supported as it is really a standout.
Thanks for your ongoing inspiring visuals, stories and recipes on Cambodia, Vietnam and the wider Asia region. Cant wait to travel again ✈️?
Lara Dunston says
Hi Michelle, so lovely to hear from you. I remember you were last in touch earlier this year about your Vietnam trip in March on the Seabourne but then there was March, the month that changed the world… did you end up doing the trip? Thank you so much the kind words. Greatly appreciated. I can only imagine how things are for you. My poor cousin’s daughter’s dream has been to work for Qantas as a flight attendant and she just completed her training and started flying late last year… so you can guess what she’s doing now. Not much.
Great to hear you love Mega Chef. We’re big fans and love it also and have probably used it for as long as we’ve been cooking Thai food – which is about 35 years. We have long used Mega Chef and the Squid brand, which a lot of Thai chefs and cooking instructors also use and recommend, although I believe it was David Thompson who convinced us that Mega Chef was superior. We always use it for Thai recipes, as it’s so consistent in quality and has that umami-ness and depth of salt that you also love.
Terence and I often mention in these posts that when we’re cooking Cambodian food we tend to use local Cambodian fish sauces here in Siem Reap, but they just aren’t as readily available internationally, especially in countries like Australia. Plus they are very rustic, local, small-batch productions so the consistency is not always there. Which is why we also recommend Mega Chef for Cambodian food. Pleased to hear it’s more widely available in Australia too these days, as we may be returning next year – after 22 years overseas!
And thank you for suggesting the story idea – I wish more readers would tell us what they want us to write about! I have actually been planning a story on the history of fish sauce in Australia as I was very disappointed to see Palisa Anderson (not sure if you know her?) write in a piece in the Guardian recently that it was suddenly hip for “white ladies and gentlemen” to write fish sauce into their recipes. Not only have we and our generation been using fish sauce for 35 years but Australians have been using fish sauce forever. So we’ll happily accept your challenge. Look out for an upcoming post!
By the way, Terence included Mega Chef fish sauce in this post on our Asian Pantry Essentials: http://grantourismotravels.com/asian-pantry-essentials/
Thank you so much for dropping by and for the kind words. We can’t wait to travel again either!