Larb moo in Bangkok
I first met Natt back in 2012 at a punk show somewhere in the Thonburi neighborhood of Bangkok, west of the Chao Phraya River—where the capital of old Siam once stood. It was my second night in the city and I still was baffled and crazy about everything that was going on around me. The obligatory bottle of SangSom was making the rounds, and the Thai rum added to my confusion and fascination. Natt and I quickly became friends.
Years later, I was sitting in Natt’s house, eating my way every morning through the vast amounts of food her aunt made for breakfast—a breakfast that looked and tasted more like lunch or dinner to a boy like me who was raised on German bread.
Every morning, a new array of dishes was waiting to be eaten. I was skeptical at first about how to stomach it that early in the day. My body expected sweetness and softness combined with some form of cereal, not a bomb of meaty flavors and spice. (Luckily for me, her aunt was mild on the chili peppers, mostly.) But I fell in love with Thai breakfast on my first morning there, celebrating not only the hospitality of Natt’s family but the mealtime itself. Mainly because I got to eat delicious larb moo, as it’s called in Thai, before lunch.
Larb, a spicy minced pork (or chicken) salad, originally comes from northeast Thailand and Laos, but it’s popular all over Thailand and comes in several varieties. It has the perfect balance of texture and contrasting flavors: seasoned with fish sauce, chili, lime juice, toasted sticky rice, some mint or kaffir leaves and, at Natt’s house, mushrooms, larb is fresh, herby, spicy, salty, and crunchy.
At Natt’s, I ate larb with a special kind of purple rice called riceberry, and chased it with large gulps of icy water. The spicy papaya salad didn’t do much to reduce the heat. Some fried pork and grilled pork sticks, a Bangkok street food stable, served me better—they were perfect for rounding off my first at-home Thai breakfast experience, so different from wandering the streets, wondering what to eat other than fruit or the pancakes marketed to backpackers.
At Natt’s, every day there would be something different for breakfast, but variety and abundance were constants. Fortunately, so was the larb.