I’ve been eager to make the duck laap (sometimes spelled larb) from the Pok Pok book (laap pet Isaan), and in a friendly email exchange last week the book’s coauthor, JJ Goode, made it clear that it was essential that I make this dish as soon as possible.

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The beautiful whole Maple Leaf Farms duck I bought is still defrosting, though, and I couldn’t bear to wait any longer, so I went ahead with chicken thighs and chicken livers. I’ll probably follow up with a full recipe when I’ve tried the duck version later this week, but here are my early impressions:

  • This is definitely the most complicated laap I’ve made.
  • Despite the hassle, it’s definitely worth soaking, drying, and then, slowly, toasting the sticky rice. In the past I’ve just toasted raw unsoaked rice, and it’s been fine—great even. But the soaking and gradual toasting—it took about 45 minutes of constant stirring—resulted in a crisp, delicate, almost ethereally light toasted rice powder. Luckily I made a big batch.
  • Get a child helper to pound the toasted rice and then the galangal paste.
  • The first time I ever had larb I’d made it myself from an old Saveur recipe that called for the juice of something like five limes. It occurs to me now that perhaps they meant five very small limes, like the Key limes I’ve been using for all of these Pok Pok dishes, because this recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons, and every professionally prepared version of the dish I’ve had since then has been significantly less lime-y than my own. I still prefer more lime, with the acknowledgment that it might not be entirely appropriate.
  • The minerally liver, finely chopped with the rest of the meat, gives the whole thing an earthy depth, and I’ll probably try to incorporate it in all my non-fish larbs going forward.
  • As JJ suggested, you can totally make a double batch in a large-ish wok.

I also made a bastardized version of the phat khanaeng (stir-fried Brussels sprouts) from the book. I used gai lan (Chinese broccoli) instead of Brussels sprouts, and fudged the Thai oyster sauce, which I didn’t happen to have. It was brilliant anyway, spicy, sweet, salty.