What Is Larb (Laab, Lahb, Larp, Laap, Lahp)?

Posted on 13 Oct 2014 22:56

Larb, pronounced lab with a short A sound, is type of salad based on minced meat that is often called the national dish of Laos, the country where the dish most likely originated. It is also a popular dish in Thailand, especially in the Northeast. The meat in larb may be raw or cooked, and might also be made with fish, such as catfish. Mint and other herbs feature strongly in the dish, and it is seasoned with lime juice, fish sauce, and minced chile peppers. Finely ground toasted rice is also an essential ingredient.

The ingredients are similar to those used in Thai cooking. Larb is often served in lettuce wraps and might be accompanied by fresh vegetables and sticky rice. Cabbage leaves are also sometimes used. Larb is a familiar dish to Americans who frequent Thai restaurants. All sorts of meat is used in larb, including beef, buffalo, pork, and chicken, and duck.

As mentioned, Larb is often thought of as the national dish of Laos, but this is not an official designation.

You may also see larb spelled laap, larp, or laab, or lahb, as the title indicates. There is no one agreed upon way to transliterate Laotian or Thai words into English pronunciations, similar to the trouble I ran into figuring out Thai menu words. The word, as above is pronounced with a short A sound, as in l-a-a-b. There is a myth that the word "lab" (laab) means "luck" in the Laotian language, but according to Leela at SheSimmers.com, the word actually comes from an older word meaning "to chop finely." There is a similar Laotian and Thai word, lab, which means fortune, or luck. These words have different etymological pathways, the word for the dish coming from the ancient Lanna language and the word for luck coming from Sanskrit. See the link below for recipe. 1

Watch the video below from Cooking with Nana for a Larb Gai recipe (Chicken Larb) and you will also hear how to pronounce the word.

1. Leela. "How to Make Larb Gai – Lahb Gai – Laab Gai – Larp Gai – Laap Gai – Lahb Gai." She Simmers. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2014 <https://goo.gl/qn3d6n>
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