Larb Tueh ( ถั่ว), Vegan Larb Salad
I spent last weekend in Napa with some close friends and new friends. We had so many incredible tuscan inspired meals as well some new American here and there. Food was great, my sinus infection.. not as great. Despite all of that. I had a fantastic time. We had several meals of steak, shrimp, and more short rib than I have had in the last two years. I finally made it back home and the first thing I knew I needed to make was larb. Its salty, spicy, sour, a hint of sweet and most all fresh. The brightness of the dish made me feel like I was doing something good for my body. I wanted to take this dish a step further and make it vegan. Although, I am not vegan or vegetarian, I am trying to more to a more plant based lifestyle.
I started my week off with a pot of beans. I soaked about 1lb of dry beans overnight in the refrigerator. Keeping them cool prevents them from sprouting. I kept them on a slow boil the next day with bay leaves. The older the beans are, the longer they take to cook. Dry beans actually go bad. Cooking beans yourself allows more of a fresher flavor and texture. Think dry pasta compared to fresh pasta. However, if you’re in a pinch and just want to make this dish quickly, open a can, rinse them, and bring them to a quick boil to get that can/metal taste boiled off. There is so much flavor from the salad itself that I wouldn’t worry.
For this dish, I actually went with pinto beans but chickpeas and garbanzos would definitely work here. If you can get your hands on heirloom beans… I’m super jealous. The colors of that would play to this dish very well. Black beans will not work here, not because of the flavor but because of the texture and color.
Just like the meat version of this dish. Its key to season in layers to ensure not over working the final salad.
THE ESSENTIAL LAYERS OF FLAVOR FOR LARB GAI, IN ORDER:
+Perfuming the beans: Garlic, shallots, scallions. Salt.
+Wet Seasonings: Fish sauce and lime juice are then added, salted to taste.
+Dry Seasoning / Adding texture: The next layer is the dried ingredients, khao kua and ground chillis. These two add so much texture, smoky, and nuttiness to the salad.
+Delicate Herbs: Finally, a light toss with fresh mint and cilantro at the end. Adding the delicate herbs at the end and after seasoning prevents over tossing and brusing the leaves to heavily. Nobody wants bruised leaves