Larb: When good food gets a bad name

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Between June of 2012 and August of 2013, I spent approximately 11 months living outside. No electricity, no flushing toilets, no wordpress blogging. It was at the beginning of this stint, in June of 2012 in the woods of Southern Oregon that I first hesitantly tasted larb.

Initial thoughts:

A) Sounds like lard.

2) Described as “meat salad”

&) words I don’t like together = meat + salad

D) Fish sauce sounds gnarly.

Fast forward 7 months and I am in Laos, the homeland of Larb. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I did not travel to Laos on a soul searching quest for the real deal Larb, it was just a bonus born from a quest for climbing limestone.

While I truly believe in engaging the traveling spirit and playing things by ear, I am by nature, a planner. After six weeks in Tonsai I was ready for a change of scene, and after hearing about the ever-popular Green Climbers Home I made reservations for a bamboo bungalow for the week after New Year’s. The Green Climbers Home is essentially what it sounds like,  a young German couple and many of their friends have set tons of incredible routes on limestone and have maintained a restaurant, dorm style rooms, bungalows and tent sites  for climbers to rent while they stay at the crag.

It was New Year’s day when I overheard a man in the Boathouse Restaurant in Tonsai, Thailand state “Oh my god, The Green Climbers Home burned down last night!”

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I don’t do so well with changes in plans. Um, what? It was true. Quite tragically, a firework went off into one of the bungalows, quickly burning that bungalow and those surrounding it, the dormitories, the restaurant, all but three bungalows (as seen above). Many people in Tonsai had the Green Climbers Home on their list, but now everyone seemed unsure of what to do. Tanja, co-owner of GCH and total crusher assured us that while the climbing camp had burned down, the rocks had not. The mission continued.

The Green Climbers Home was indeed burned. As promised, the rocks were not. The one week “plan” quickly extended itself to ten days, We were amazed by the incredible limestone roof, home to truly world classic climbs like Saugeburt (which takes you into a cave, births you out of a tunnel, and then traverses you to a final committing crimp pull below the anchors, arguably the most dramatic crescendo of awesome I have ever experienced on a climb). We were equally amazed by the community that had formed after the tragic fire. People were still climbing, the owners, Tanja and Uli, were clearly distraught, but seemed as strong mentally as they appeared physically (which is very strong). Rebuilding was the only option, but in a “sabai sabai” environment like Laos (Sabai Sabai quite literally translates in English to “Obla-di, Obla-da”) construction can take quite some time.

Now, a year later, I have heard that the climbers home is ALMOST entirely rebuilt. If you like climbing, or larb, or maybe you’re nervous about larb because it sounds like lard but you think you might want to give it a shot, or maybe you’re nervous about climbing but you think you might want to give that a shot too, I would suggest the Green Climbers Home in Laos. My theory is that if you do two things that scare you at the same time, then you don’t have the bandwidth to fully fear both at the maximum fear potential. So maybe if you started rock climbing in conjunction with trying larb, neither would seem so scary. I can assure you that both larb (depending on how you make it) and rock climbing (depending on how you do it) are really, really good for your health.

In the event that you are not going to Laos this week, I will give you an extremely modified recipe for Larb. This recipe is paleo friendly, gluten free, and can easily be made vegan.

If you like this post or recipe and want to help fund it or others like it, check out the campaign at Indiegogo: http://igg.me/at/summitsustenance/x/2565171

Larb:

  • 1 pound ground turkey (I fried this up in a pan with toasted sesame oil) – for vegetarian option you can sautee Tofu or mushrooms instead
  • 1 chopped and sauteed baby bok choy
  • 1/2 diced and sauteed red onion
  • 1/4 cup minced lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (or if you really can’t stand it or want vegan option, use Tamari)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or agave)
  • *I added 1/2 cup chopped cashews for texture and flavor, not traditional at all, or necessary, but really good!

Directions: Add ground turkey (or diced tofu, or minced mushrooms) into a frying pan with toasted sesame oil, once mostly cooked add red onion and bok choy, continue to sautee. Add lemongrass, and then finally garlic, sautee for another minute and then remove from heat. Add chopped mint and cilantro and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine lime juice, fish sauce (or tamari) and honey. Dress the “meat salad” with the lime juice conglomeration, and then add cashews if you so please. Climb on!

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