‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’
Opal Thai in Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu is one of those not-to-be-missed eating experiences. A block or two from the famous Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice, Thai food lovers, including me, rave about the fabulous dishes.
Opal, the proprietor, has an outgoing, engaging interaction with every table of diners. He greets you then takes the menus out of your hands and chucks them on the bench. “I’ll take care of you, no worry,” and then he administers a pop quiz. “Name five Thai dishes you’ve eaten recently”. My daughter and I have both been to Thailand and love Thai food but we were taken off guard. We stammered through Pad Thai, Satay, Curry and Mango Coconut Rice. He announces, “I’ll take care of you guys and you’ll love it” he prescribes. His only question, “How hot do you dare?”
In a few minutes several dishes appeared. We started with Thai Pork Larb and then enjoyed Drunken Noodles and Shrimp with Crisp Vegetables. Wow! I loved it all, every bite; but the Larb, so amazing; crisp raw vegetables, pork with fish sauce and lime juice scooped in a lettuce wrap. I decided to recreate it when I returned to Washington, DC. Two days later while still suffering from major jet lag, I made my first version.
Drawing from notes, Opal memory and “Cooking with Poo”, a cookbook my daughter brought home from her cooking class in Thailand, my first attempt was close. Tweaked the recipe into this version. I’m raving over the umami flavors of Thai food and crunchy vegetables eaten fresh, raw. This recipe is for my family members who didn’t make it to Opals.
Recipe: Thai Pork Larb
Active Time: 25 Minutes | Total Time: 25 Minutes | Yield: 4 Servings
1 Tbsp rice
3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp minced ginger
1 lb ground pork
1/2 tsp chili powder
3 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 small red onion, diced
4 stalks green onion, sliced
2 Tbsp finely chopped lemon grass
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 head iceberg lettuce
1 large carrot, shredded
3/4 cup shredded red cabbage
1 Tbsp chopped mint, optional
Special Equipment – large skillet
1 Heat skillet on high without oil. Place rice kernels in the dry pan. Stirring continuously, toast them until they turn golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove rice kernels to a plate to cool.
2 Add water and ginger to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add ground pork and cook until gray, breaking down into small clumps while it cooks. Take the skillet off the heat.
3 Meanwhile cut the lettuce into 2 wedges. Grind the rice into coarse rice powder with a blender, food processor or coffee grinder devoted to spices.
4 Stir chili powder, fish sauce, lime juice, red onion, green onion, lemon grass, cilantro and coarse rice powder into the pork mixture.
5 Place meat and vegetable mixture on a platter with shredded carrots, red cabbage and lettuce wedges. Make lettuce wraps by spooning pork mixture and shredded vegetables into lettuce leaves.
Add a little chopped fresh mint, if desired.
Serve this as a starter salad before main course Thai dishes or as the main course.
- Exchange ground pork for ground turkey or chicken.
Cook with Sauces
Written by Helen Horton
Recipe Tester for The Washington Post
Photography and Styling by Helen Horton
Updated: August 23, 2014