Chef Yia Vang’s Isaan Laab with Sauteed Mustard Greens

Seared ground beef with fresh bright flavors of lemongrass and cilantro tossed in Hmong laab spices, served with rice and garlicky mustard greens.

Isaan is in the northeastern part of Thailand where food is a bit warm, hearty and filling. Laab is a traditional Thai dish made of minced meat and combined with aromatic spices, vegetables, herbs and citrus. Chef Yia’s version perfectly highlights our summer’s bounty of fresh produce in this quick and flavor-laden dish.

Cooking vegetables in small pieces into meat preparations can extend the amount of food we get and increase the health of the meal easily! Its a great way to add more vegetables to your diet with a lot of flavor and comfort!

Cooking Terms

  • Bias slice

    Cut or slice at a diagonal angle; if meat, cut across the direction of the grain

  • Saute

    Cook quickly in a small amount of fat over high heat; literally “to jump”

  • Wilt

    Cook a leafy vegetable briefly until it has softened and lost its shape

  • Julienne

    To slice into thin strips about the size of matchsticks


  • 1.5 cup short grain brown rice
  • 2 oz toasted rice powder
  • 1 fl oz fish sauce
  • 2 tsp Laab spice mix
  • 8 each Thai basil leaves
  • 2 each Thai chilies
  • 12 sprig cilantro
  • 6 each garlic cloves
  • 2 stems culantro
  • 1 each lemongrass stalk
  • 2 each carrots
  • 4 each mint leafs
  • 6 each green onions
  • 1 each lime
  • 6 oz mustard greens
  • 1 pound ground beef

From Your Home

Olive or canola oil

What You Need

2 Medium saute pans
Medium pot with lid

Per Serving

Calories: 380

Carbs: 45

Fat: 10

Protein: 25


  • Thai Laab spice blend

    You can buy pre-mixed spices pretty much anywhere BUT blending your own allows you to make sure there is no added salt.

    Laab Mix:
    2 tsp. onion powder
    2 tsp. garlic powder
    2 tsp. corriander
    ½ tsp. fennel

    This laab mix will also work great on pork, chicken roasted carrots, sweet potatoes and a lot of other vegetables! Feel free to rub it all over the meat or vegetables with 1 Tbsp. oil and roast in the oven until cooked!

  • Mustard Greens Substitute

    If you don’t have or don’t like mustard greens, feel free to swap for your favorite leafy green vegetable.  Kale, spinach, or chard would work great. Feeling adventurous? Try turnip, radish, or beet greens.

  • Substitute Meat for Lentils

    Using less meat is a great way to make this recipe less expensive and more heart healthy.  Swap half the ground beef for cooked brown lentils! Simply cook ½ cup brown lentils in 1 ½ cups water.  Be sure to use a large enough saucepan as the lentils will double or triple in size. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until they are tender.  For whole lentils, cook time is typically 15-20 minutes. Lentils are an easy way to increase fiber in ground meat recipes, soups, or taco filling.

  • Regrow Green Onions

    You don’t always need a garden to grow vegetables.  Green onions can be regrown inside just from the root.  Save 1 inch of the root end and place in a dish of water in a sunny place.  Replace the water every few days and cut the green portion with a scissors once it grows more than 6”.  It should grow several times before you will need to throw it away.

  • Homemade Toasted Rice Powder

    Looking to recreate the recipe and need toasted rice powder?  This ingredient can be found at most Asian grocery stores (like Payne Oriental Market at 1048 Payne Ave or Hoa Mei Market and Deli at 860 Maryland Ave E).  Or you can make your own! Toasted rice powder is simply dry toasted sticky rice or jasmine rice, that is then ground into a powder. Add plain rice to a hot pan and dry toast until light brown and smells like popcorn.  Grind into a coarse powder using a food processor or blender and use within 1-2 weeks.

  • Zesting

    Remember to zest your citrus before juicing.  You can save the zest for future recipes by freezing it in small bags or ice cube trays.  Frozen and fresh zest are better than dried zest.

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Mise en place

Read through the entire recipe before getting started. Wash and dry all produce. Remove & discard root ends from green onions. Bias slice white bulb, and thinly slice green tops; keep separate. Remove top and peel from carrot and discard; then, square to create a flat surface and julienne. Thinly slice half garlic then, mince remaining half. Tear Thai basil, culantro, cilantro and mint leaves into 1” pieces. Remove top from Thai chili and thinly slice. Trim the bottom 2” and top 2” from lemongrass and discard. Cut middle portion into thin slices.

Cook the rice

Place brown rice in a strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water comes out clear. Place  rice, 1¼ cups water in medium pot over medium heat. Bring to boil; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 20-25 min until tender. Fluff with fork. While rice is cooking, begin sautéing the aromatics (Step #3).

Note: If the rice has absorbed the water but isn’t fully cooked after 20-25 min; add ¼ cup water, cover and cook for 8-10 min longer.

Saute the aromatics

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add green onion bottoms (white bulb parts), minced garlic, and carrots, cook 1-2 min until sizzling. Add lemongrass, Thai chilies and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Note: Use as little or as much Thai chilies as you like depending on your heat/spice preference.

Finish Issan Laab

Add 1 Tbsp. oil, ground beef and Laab mix, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook 7-10 min, breaking beef apart with a spoon until fully cooked. Add fish sauce and sauté another 2-3 min until all liquid has been cooked out. Remove from heat and add toasted rice flour. Cover and set aside.

USDA recommends cooking beef to an internal temperature of 145ºF.

Saute mustard greens

Heat 1 tsp. oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic, and mustard greens, a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until lightly wilted and remove from heat, about 1-2 min. Set aside.

Plate your dish

Add culantro, cilantro, Thai basil, mint and green onion tops to Isaan laab and squeeze lime on top. Divide rice between two bowls, top with Isaan laab and serve with garlic-mustard greens. Enjoy!