I’ve written here about my love of Thai flavors before (see: my lemongrass pork chop recipe); this recipe is no different. Built around the strong, umami of the fish sauce that is then balanced with lime, shallots, and mint, this mushroom larb is a super refreshing and easy dish. Traditionally, larb is made with ground chicken or pork and is considered to be the national dish of Laos. It is also very popular in parts of Thailand and it’s clear from the ingredient list that there is overlap in Thai and Laotian cuisines. Interesting, I also found the mix of shallots, peanuts, chili, and mint reminiscent of bhel or chaat, which are popular Indian street foods.
I’ve made this recipe before with ground turkey and this week, Bon Apetit shared a version with mushrooms that was lighter but seemed just as satisfying. Mushrooms do a great job as a meat replacement and I added in a pinch of MSG to boost that meat-like umami flavor. That, tossed in with all of the other ingredients, made for a fantastic lunch. If you’re looking for something more filling, you can add some rice to these lettuce cups. I opted for oyster mushrooms but you can really use whatever is accessible.
Fish sauce serves the same function here that anchovies do in Italian cooking - it adds depth of flavor but does not make the the dish “fishy”. If you’re trying to keep this vegetarian, you can replace the fish sauce with some soy sauce - those two flavors are very different but it should still taste good. The dish begins with some prep, which takes 5-10 mins, the mushrooms take 10-12 mins to cook, and it takes a few seconds to dress the dish. It’s a fast, healthy, and fresh dish perfect for lunches or a fast weeknight dinner.
16 oz oyster or shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 and 1 tsp oil, divided
1 Fresno chili or Serrano pepper, seeded and diced
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, mined
4 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
a few mint leaves
salt to taste
a tiny pinch of MSG (optional but highly recommended)
Prepare the dressing and add-ins. Seed and dice the Fresno chili or Serrano pepper. Thinly slice the shallot. Thinly slice the scallion. Crush and mince the garlic. Roughly chop the peanuts. Tear off the mint leaves or roughly chop them. In a bowl, combine the fish sauce and lime juice; mix well. Set all of these ingredients aside.
Heat up a pan on medium heat. Once heated, add the 2 tsp of oil and wait for it to almost start smoking. Add in the mushrooms and spread them out on the pan; do not overload the pan with mushrooms, or else they will crowd and steam, as opposed to browning. Cook for 5 mins on medium heat, completely undisturbed. After the 5 mins, toss the mushrooms in the pan and cook for another 4 mins. The mushrooms should be browned and the pan should be dry.
Next, add in the additional 1 tsp of oil, the scallion, the garlic, chili, and a sprinkle of salt (fish sauce is salty, so do not over-salt at this point). Toss well. If using, add a pinch of MSG and toss well. Cook for 1-2 mins.
Turn off the heat and add in the fish sauce-lime dressing, chopped peanuts, shallots, and mint leaves. Toss well.
Serve with lettuce cups or a bowl of rice…or lettuce cups with rice!