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Starter: Thai Style Venison Salad (Larb)

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Photos by Q Concepts

Larb is a simple dish that I first tasted at Thai restaurants while living in San Diego and Las Vegas. It’s the “unofficial national dish” of Laos, and has been brought to the U.S. in Thai restaurants due to a large Laotian population in Northeastern Thailand. For me, it’s a perfect hot-weather dish, and is a fresh, flavorful way to enjoy ground game meat that’s unique. It can be eaten in lettuce cups, or served more as an entrée with raw vegetables and sticky rice. I love the hot, salty, sour combination of flavors and all of its textures working together.

Rick Mace

1 tablespoon sugar
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Jasmine rice, uncooked
Cooking oil (we prefer peanut or corn)
1 pound ground venison or ½ pound ground venison and ½ pound ground pork
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
½ tablespoon fish sauce
4 shallots or 1 small red onion, sliced thin
3 fresh Thai chilies, or any hot pepper according to your taste
2 cups rough cut romaine lettuce or napa cabbage
1 bunch green onions cut into 1-inch sections
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 pint fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 bunch basil leaves
½ bunch cilantro leaves
1 bunch mint leaves

romaine lettuce

Make the Dressing:
Using the side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic into a paste with the sugar. Place the mashed garlic into a mixing bowl and combine with the chilies, lime juice, fish sauce, and a splash of oil.

Toast & Crush the Rice:
Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the dry rice to the pan. Toast the rice, stirring periodically. A few charred grains of rice will give a nutty flavor. Transfer the rice to a coffee grinder or blender. Grind until the consistency of cornmeal.

thai chile

Cook the Meat:
Wipe out the pan you toasted the rice in and add a splash of oil heat pan over medium-high heat. Divide the meat in half, adding half to the pan and stir into an even layer. Allow the meat to brown well before stirring and then let brown a second time. Cook the second half of the meat in the same fashion. Remove from the heat and combine in the mixing bowl with the dressing. Toss in the chilies and shallots and allow to cool slightly.

Finish the Salad:
In a separate bowl, combine the lettuce, green onions, cucumber, and tomatoes. Toss evenly. Lay the vegetable mixture on a serving platter. Combine the herbs and half of the toasted rice with the meat mixture and toss to combine. Spread the meat mixture over the salad. Finish with the remaining toasted rice, lime wedges, and additional chilies if desired. Serve immediately.

*Serves 4

ground meat

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