July 28, 2021

The Many Faces of Larb

Tastemaker
By Janice Binkert | March 10, 2018

Is it larb, laab, laap or larp? That depends on where in the world you are. In the U.S., it’s often just called lettuce wraps. This particular version — from Samsara, the new Southeast Asian restaurant in Traverse City — has its origins in Laos, where it is the unofficial national dish. There, according to Samantha Malasy (co-owner of the restaurant and the “Sam” in its name), it is sometimes served with just rice. Marrying the flavors of minced chicken or beef, onions, cilantro, Thai chili peppers, and fresh lime, Samsara’s larb is garnished with toasted, ground sticky rice. The taste? Umami pure — that combination of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter — with a spicy kick. Crisp lettuce leaves and cooling cucumbers balance the heat. It’s surprising how such a simple dish can create so much sensory excitement. $8.50 for chicken, $10.50 for beef. Samsara, 4025 Chums Village Dr., Traverse City. (231) 486-6155.

 

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