Larb is a meat salad of Laotian origin that often appears on Thai menus and is easy to make at home. Ground beef, pork, and chicken are the typical proteins used. This vegetarianversion, based on one in “Perfectly Good Food” by Margaret Li and Irene Li, subs crumbled tofu while using the same spicy, sweet, sour and savory flavorings. Generous handfuls of chopped greens and herbs rev up the flavor, aroma, and nutrient value of the mild tofu mixture; feel free to supplement with chopped nuts or bits of just about any vegetable lurking in your crisper. Spooned in cool lettuce leaves and eaten like a taco. Serves 4. – Susan Puckett
- 1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons lime juice or rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
- Pinch of chile flakes, or to taste
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus a little more, if needed)
- ½ cup diced shallots or onions
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (or more, to taste)
- 1 ½ cups chopped spinach
- 2 cups roughly chopped or torn fresh herbs, including soft stems (any combination of basil, cilantro, mint, or flat-leaf parsley)
- Kosher salt
- Chopped peanuts or cashews (optional)
- Romaine lettuce leaves
- Make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice or vinegar, honey or sugar, and chile flakes to taste.
- Make the tofu: Wrap the block of tofu in a kitchen towel and set a heavy skillet on top for about 10 minutes to press out the liquid. Then crumble and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots or onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook one minute more.
- Stir in the tofu and cook 6 to 8 minutes until heated through, pressing it into the hot pan to help it brown a bit (add a little more oil if it starts to stick to the pan).
- Mix in the spinach and cook a minute or two, just until wilted. Then turn off the heat and stir in the herbs.
- Taste and season with salt as desired. Serve in lettuce leaves with chopped nuts, if desired.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.