Larb Salad: From Laos, With Love

Not the prettiest sounding word to American ears, you could call larb (pronounced "lawb"), the meat salad originating in the country of Laos, by its "street" name: Lao-style, or Laotian-style, salad.

No matter what the moniker, this meat-minded, fresh, and spicy salad, regarded as the national dish of Laos, is a splendidly flavorful way to take your salad eating to the exotic side.

Since Laos shares a border with northeastern Thailand, larb, or Lao-style salad, can be found at a multitude of Thai restaurants. In the Valley, one of my favorite places to procure it is Pete's Thai Cuisine. From the former chef and owner of Siam in Glendale and Thai E-San in Central Phoenix, Pete (or, in Thai, Tossapis) Pholtosa, from the Nakhoyn Phanom province in northeastern Thailand, serves up this dish with all the love of home.

Served at room temperature, Pholtosa's Lao-style salad ($9.95) -- made with minced beef, chicken, or pork, flavored with fish sauce and herbs, and mixed with chile, onions, and bits of nutty, toasted rice -- is satisfyingly spicy, with a strong presence of lime and hints of mint to help cut the heat.

Throw in a basket of sticky rice to wrap pieces of it in and you're in larb-lovin' heaven.

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