Friday, April 22, 2011

Ahi Larb

If you've read this blog before, you are probably aware that I have a special fondness for ahi.  Good, fresh tuna is a taste that's hard to beat.  While many Americans have an aversion to raw fish and will only eat seared ahi, I especially like raw ahi.  Served as carpaccio or tartare, it makes a wonderful appetizer.  This version of larb could also be served as an appetizer or, with sticky rice, as part of a Thai meal. 

In the US, larb (or laab) is found in virtually every Thai restaurant.  Usually, larb gai--chicken larb--is what is on offer, made with cooked chicken, lime juice, fish sauce and herbs.  Other meats may also be used for larb.

My first exposure to larb was about 25 years ago when teaching some Lao students in Sacramento.  I was occasionally invited to their houses for celebrations and they always had plenty of food.  Larb was something that was always served, but very often the larb they made was with raw beef.  Although I like raw beef, my wife won't touch it, so I generally avoid beef these days.  This ahi larb is my attempt to create something like I used to have at the Lao parties.

The primary requirement for this dish is the availability of sashimi grade fresh ahi.  The lime juice "cooks" the fish, so its best to make the larb just before serving.  It is a simple, quickly prepared dish that may be served with lettuce, Belgian endive, Vietnamese sesame crackers, or sticky rice.  Increase or reduce the number of chilies to adjust the level of heat in the dish to your taste.

Ahi Larb

1/2 pound sashimi grade ahi tuna, chopped in a small dice
1-4 red Thai chiles, seeded and minced
3 small shallots, peeled and minced
2 TBS fresh lime juice
1 1/2 TBS fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
3 TBS minced rau ram (daun laksa)
1 TBS minced mint
black pepper, to taste
2-3 TBS roasted rice powder

In a medium bowl, mix the ahi with the other ingredients.  Press into a small bowl and invert the bowl onto a serving platter.  As an appetizer, guacamole is a nice accompaniment with sesame crackers and Belgian endive spears.

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