More adventures in plant-based cooking continue! This time we have Mushroom Larb, a vegetarian take on a Laotian favorite made with browned bits of oyster mushrooms, plenty of herbs, and fish sauce. Flexitarians can opt for the standard fish sauce, but we have thoughts on vegan alternatives below.
Southeast Asian Plant-based Recipes
We love eating Southeast Asian food. In our opinion, classics like pad Thai and pho are right up there along with pizza and tacos in that they’ve become beloved staples across the U.S.
We’ve been spoiled by solid neighborhood Southeast Asian spots over the years, and our recipes for Pork Larb and Chicken Larb are some of our favorite easy Asian ground meat recipes.
But when one begins to think about eating plant-based, some Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian favorites get weeded out pretty quickly. Why? Fish sauce.
Even if you eliminate the meat component, fish sauce is the Achilles’ heel of a plant-based cook’s arsenal when trying to create any Southeast Asian dish. The distinctly funky, fishy, and umami flavor of fish sauce is pretty singular. It only takes a few drops to make a huge difference. But is it required?
If you’re simply a “flexitarian” who doesn’t necessarily want to eliminate animal products entirely, you can opt to use regular fish sauce. It’s still a garnish/seasoning rather than the main event!
More about vegan fish sauce…
So we’ve taken the next step of experimenting with vegan fish sauce. A common ingredient is kelp, and while I am one of the first to wax on the virtues of kelp around here, kelp wasn’t one of the top ingredients in the brand we purchased, and the flavor was mediocre at best. So what is one to do?
Firstly, we found that a teaspoon (or more, to taste) of light soy sauce helped round out the umami and flavors in this Mushroom Larb when using vegan fish sauce, though it’s certainly not a standard addition when it comes to larb.
Secondly, I did a little bit more digging, and unearthed 24Vegan’s Vegan Fish Sauce. One reviewer called it the “Red Boat of vegan fish sauce,” plus it’s Vietnamese-woman owned.
It’s pricey and decidedly kelp-free (TBD if that’s a good or bad thing), but I’m intrigued. This post isn’t formally sponsored, though my bottle is on the way, and I am eagerly awaiting its arrival. We will report back.
If I haven’t bored you with fish sauce minutiae yet, onto the recipe!
How to Make Mushroom Larb
In a dry wok or pan over low heat, toast the rice grains, stirring continuously until they turn golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. While that’s happening, finely chop the mushrooms.
Grind the rice to a coarse powder in a mortar & pestle or food processor (a few pulses will do). Set aside.
It’s occurring to me now that if you have neither of those things, a rolling pin would suffice. Put the rice grains on a cutting board. Put your weight on the rolling pin, going slowly over them to pulverize them. Skip the ziploc bag. The force from smashing the rice grains into the plastic would probably ruin the bag instantly.
Place your wok back over high heat until smoking. (You could also use a nonstick pan, in which case you don’t want it to smoke. Just heat it over medium heat). Add the oil and the mushrooms.
Stir-fry until the mushrooms are brown on the edges. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Add the toasted rice powder, sugar, fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce), soy sauce (if needed), and lime juice.
Stir-fry for another minute, and then add the chili, shallots, scallions, cilantro, and mint.
Stir-fry for one more minute, then taste for seasoning, adding more chili, sugar, fish sauce, and/or lime juice to your taste if needed.
Serve with sticky rice, steamed jasmine rice, and/or lettuce leaves.
- 1 tablespoon uncooked sticky rice (also called glutinous rice or sweet rice; can substitute regular white rice)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 pound oyster mushrooms finely chopped (you an also use king oyster mushrooms)
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (either regular or vegan, depending on your dietary preference)
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce (optional if using regular fish sauce)
- 1 lime (juiced)
- 1 Thai bird's eye chili (thinly sliced)
- 3 shallots (medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced)
- 3 scallions (chopped)
- 1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)
- 1/2 cup mint (chopped)
- In a dry wok or pan over low heat, toast the rice grains, stirring continuously until they turn golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Grind to a coarse powder in a mortar & pestle or food processor (a few pulses will do). Set aside.
- Place your wok back over high heat until smoking. Add the oil and the mushrooms. Stir-fry until the mushrooms are browned on the edges.
- Add the toasted rice powder, sugar, fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce), soy sauce (if needed), and lime juice.
- Stir-fry for another minute, and then add the chili, shallots, scallions, cilantro, and mint. Stir-fry for one more minute, then taste for seasoning, adding more chili, sugar, fish sauce, and/or lime juice to your taste if needed.
- Serve with sticky rice, steamed jasmine rice, and/or lettuce leaves.