A few years ago on a chilly Friday evening we were at our friends John and Faye's house hanging out in their kitchen and catching up over a beer while the kids played in the basement (a popular way for us to spend Friday nights when the kids were younger). We decided to order takeout from a great Thai place in the neighborhood and Faye ordered her favorite, a beef salad called Laab. I'd never had it before and was surprised to see that the beef wasn't cut into strips as I had imagined but was ground into small pieces like, well, hamburger. I thought ground beef was strictly the purview of North Americans and Europeans. Hamburgers, shepherds pie, pasties and that kind of thing. Well let me tell you, humble ground beef becomes quite a showy flower when it's combined with a few Thai staples and fried until it gets a little crispy around the edges. This is my version of that dish. It's savory, tangy, bright and feels good-for-you.
I paired it with fragrant basmati rice cooked in coconut milk, crunchy raw vegetables (julienned just for fun and because I got a new tool for Christmas that makes it so easy*) and a tangy cilantro yogurt sauce. A fine meal that comes together quickly. I wish my photos did it justice but I was itching to eat this and decided they were "good enough". By the time I loaded the pictures onto my computer it was too late and every morsel had been consumed. So you'll have to trust me on this.
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 small chili peppers (Serrano or Thai bird), thinly sliced, seeds and membranes discarded
1 lb. ground beef (I used grass-fed, 85% lean)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 packed teaspoon brown sugar
1 juicy lime (or 2 if smaller/harder) - about 3 tablespoons
1 cup basil loosely packed and julienned, divided
2-3 carrots, cut into thin strips or grated
6 oz. snow peas, cut into strips
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1. Put oil in skillet over medium heat and add peppers and garlic. Saute until fragrant then add ground beef and salt and fry until cooked and a little crispy, draining off all but one tablespoon excess fat.
2. Add soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and half of basil. Saute for a few more minutes and serve over rice and vegetables sprinkling with remaining basil and a dollop of cilantro yogurt.
Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon water
1. Combine all ingredients into a blender and puree thinning with more water if necessary.
Cook 1 cup basmati rice according to instructions using low fat coconut milk in place of half the water.
*The peeler I got is a Malle W. Trousseau - quite expensive (perfect to receive for a gift) but work so well and I imagine will last a lifetime.