There’s nothing that grinds my gloof gears more than ordering a bao/slider/taco thinking I’m getting a gluten-free version of the original, when instead those unimaginative buggers have just wrapped the filling in a lettuce leaf. Lettuce is not and will never be a delicious carb. When there’s full disclosure that my dinner involves a lettuce leaf carrier then I’m pretty okay with that, especially when the filling is as delicious as my fish larb.
I get into the habit of buying the same types of fish again and again; terakihi and gurnard are my go to for pan-frying and steaming, or monkfish if I’m making something more hearty like a fish stew. For making larb, there’s no point in using a delicately flavoured or expensive fish as there is so much flavour-flav added. I decided to try something different and bought some moki, an inexpensive and firm-fleshed fish, which did the job perfectly.
Oh, and in case you’re missing the sister endorsement of this recipe, here it is: “This is bloody delicious, I want to eat larb every night”. Careful what you wish for.
Fish larb with vermicelli & mint salad in cos lettuce leaves
For the dressing:
zest and juice of two limes (or three if they’re small)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon chilli paste (I used sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine all ingredients together, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
For the vermicelli & vegetable salad:
a large handful round green beans
a telegraph cucumber, cut into small pieces
a large handful mung beans
1 cup of unsalted peanuts, roasted and roughly chopped
a large handful of Vietnamese mint (you could substitute regular mint but it won’t be quite the same), roughly chopped
Cover the vermicelli with boiling water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Drain off the water and then use scissors to cut into shorter lengths. Put into a large serving bowl.
Cut the stem ends off the beans and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and run under the cold tap to halt the cooking process. Once cool, slice the green beans into 2cm pieces.
Add the beans, cucumber, mung beans, peanuts, and mint to the vermicelli and pour over half of the dressing. Toss to combine.
For the fish:
500g fresh white firm-fleshed fish (I used moki), roughly chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass, finely chopped (discard the upper stringy part)
2 kaffir lime leaves, stem removed and leaves finely chopped
zest of a lime (save the juice for the dressing)
1-2 red chillies, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Heat a slosh of oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and add the larb mixture. Leave to cook for 2-3 minutes without stirring and then use a fish slice to turn the larb over in large sections and cook for a further 1-2 minutes before removing from the heat.
Putting it all together:
a baby cos lettuce, washed and separated into leaves
Set the table with the bowl of vermicelli salad, a bowl of the fish larb, cos lettuce leaves, and the remaining dressing and let everyone to help themselves. Put a spoonful of the vermicelli into the centre of a lettuce leaf, add some fish larb, and drizzle with some dressing. Or just arrange the components on your plate and turn it into a salad.