Beef Laab & Cucmber Salad – Spicy Thai Salad


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I’m happy to share a guest post today from Jeni, of An Herbalist Eats blog – and her recipe for Beef Laab – Spicy Thai Beef Salad. My husband and I went to Thailand in 2000 when we were living in Japan. Next to our vacation last year to Paris, our 2 week visit to Thailand remains my all time favorite vacation. If you ever get the chance to go to Thailand – go! Run! You will love it. Promise.Here’s Jeni…

Beef Laab & Cucmber Salad – Spicy Thai Salad

Beef Laab and Cucumber Salad - Spicy Thai Salad

My husband and I have now been official Iowans for four months.

Since I started blogging three years ago, Jake’s job has taken us on a tour of the Midwest, moving us from our home state of Minnesota to North Dakota and Iowa where communities in which we lived decreased in population from 3 million to 215,000 to 28,000. We got engaged and married in Fargo and bought a house and adopted a dog in Iowa. It’s been a stream of major life changes, but most of them good.

Life in a smaller city comes with its own set of joys and challenges. I graduated from Wartburg College years ago, so moving to Iowa feels like a homecoming of sorts. Mason City’s Frank Lloyd Wright architecture is stunning and everyone including our neighbors, old acquaintances and business owners have extended a warm welcome.

However, one thing we’re trying to get used to is having a smaller variety of ethnic markets from which to shop. I joke that someday if I ever write a book, I’ll call this chapter of our lives ___ year(s) without an Asian market, for this is the first time we’ve lived in a city without one. Therefore, when Jake’s special dinner request for the week was beef laab, a spicy Thai beef salad, I wondered if I could pull it off.

Years ago, I visited friends in Des Moines who introduced me to laab. They prepared it from ground beef and steamed Thai sticky rice in a special basket and pot {Sticky Rice Steamer Pot and Basket}. They showed me how to use a special tool {Kiwi Pro Slice Peeler} to shred cucumber for a salad and introduced me to fish sauce {Thai Kitchen Fish Sauce}. Then, we all gathered around the table and ate it with our hands. I was so taken with the meal that I bought my own steamer and shredder.

Our meal turned out better than I expected, even though I had to substitute jalapeno for Thai chilies and fresh mint for Thai basil. This experience reminded me to do the best with what I can find instead of complaining about what I can’t.

It can feel inconvenient when you can’t find the exact ingredients that you want, but it’s also a test of creativity. After all, people have been carrying the recipes of their families with them for centuries, adding twists and turns depending on what was available when they settled in a new place. Improvisation leads to new flavors and connections and a good attitude goes a long way.

Have leftovers? Try stir frying any leftover sticky rice with remaining herbs, shallots, green onion, and lime juice and add scrambled egg. Serve with remaining cucumber salad and lettuce leaves. 

Beef Laab – Spicy Thai Beef Salad

Beef Laab – Spicy Thai Beef Salad


  • Sirloin, cut into small pieces (Can also use ground beef or ground turkey)
  • Juice of two limes
  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • 2-3 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (or whatever fresh chili you can find).
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Chopped cilantro, to taste
  • Chopped mint, about a tablespoon.
  • Sugar, a dash
  • Garlic salt, to taste

Cucumber Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber, shredded or grated. Cut the leftover core into slices.
  • 1 carrot, shredded or grated
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Green scallion, thinly sliced
  • Lime juice
  • Salt
  • Sugar


  1. Heat a little oil in a pan and saute the beef until it's just cooked.
  2. Add lime juice and fish sauce. Stir and let the flavors meld for a few minutes.
  3. Add the shallots, jalapeno, cayenne pepper and scallions. Let them cook briefly. I like them to remain crunchy.
  4. Season with chopped cilantro (I like a lot), a little chopped mint, plus a dash each of sugar and salt to taste.
  5. Serve with steamed rice and tender lettuce leaves for wrapping

For the Cucumber Salad

  1. Drain the excess liquid from the cucumber.
  2. Combine with the carrot, as many cherry tomatoes as you'd like and season with green scallion, lime juice, salt and sugar to taste.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Sodium: 1mg

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram tagging @simplifylivelove! I love to see your photos!

A Cook’s Notes:

Substitute any other ground or minced meat for the sirloin. I’ve even eaten laab made of crumbled tofu.

I easily found Thai sticky rice and the special rice steamer pot and basket in Asian grocery stores around the Twin Cities and Fargo, but you can substitute any type of steamed rice. 

Traditional laab is made with toasted rice powder which you can also find in Asian grocery stores or make with a coffee grinder. I left it out out for convenience. 

I found fish sauce at Target and Hyvee. The liquid will come out of the bottle in tiny splashes so start with a little and gradually add. Don’t be afraid of the smell. It will lend a subtle flavor and the laab won’t taste quite right without it. 

Finally, you can add all of the herbs and seasonings to taste. I like my laab very spicy, but you can leave out the chili and cayenne or add less. 

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. I am always looking for new recipes to try. Especially healthy ones. I will be trying this in my kitchen really soon. Thanks for sharing. I will be looking out for more recipes on your site.

  2. This looks absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing this recipe! I am definitely saving this for later 🙂

  3. this looks really delicious and easy to make. I am always looking for something different to try for dinner.

  4. Beef Laab salad is one of my favorite dishes! I try to have it at least 2x a week during the summer, it’s so light, so good – and yet so filling!

  5. This sounds really good. I have never made and Thai type foods before. I would love to use a basket to make rice though! I have seen them use it on a cooking show before and I have been wanting one since.