By any chance, I had a taste of Thai cuisine at local Thai restaurant weeks ago. It was actually my first time trying authentic Thai dishes and I was totally impressed. Although the dishes looked simple, they tasted fresh and rich in flavors. I tried some must-try dishes like green curry and tom yum soup. Nevertheless, chicken larb seemed like the easiest to start my exploration with Thai cuisine.
Larb or laab (also spelled laap, larp or lahb, Thai: ลาบ, Lao: ລາບ) is a meat salad. Not your ordinary salad because larb does not have raw vegetables or fruit as their main ingredient, but it uses minced meat, seafood, or noodles instead. They also have salads composed of vegetables that are called yum in Thailand. Larb is a typical of northern style. Eating larb is considered a sign of wealth as meat is a relatively expensive in those regions.
The dish offers subtle balance of spicy, sweet, salty, and tart from the dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, and chillies. The herbs add freshness and burst more flavor, making the dish tastes more complex. I think this dish can split people into love or hate relationship as some people may do not like the taste of pungent herbs.
Tips on Making Chicken Larb
1. Adding ground toasted sticky rice
You may find some larb recipes use ground toasted sticky rice or khao khua (ข้าวคั่ว). The ground toasted sticky rice works as the binder of all the ingredients together, and provide some crunchiness to the salad. To make this Chicken Larb simpler, I decided to leave it out because the taste is still the same without.
If you to stick to authenticity, you can make ground toasted sticky rice by placing raw glutinous rice in the pan and heating it over low-medium heat until rice is lightly golden for about 10-15 minutes. Cool it slightly before grinding in mortar until it turns into fine powder. Sprinkle the ground toasted sticky rice over the larb right before serving, otherwise it will absorb the dressing and make the larb seem dry.
2. Chicken substitutes
Larb is usually made with chicken but can also be made with ground beef, duck, fish, pork or finely minced mushrooms. You can also use a finely chopped firm tofu for alternatives.
3. Grinding the chicken by your own
Grinding the chicken by your own is a way to get fresher and cleaner taste because the meat has not had a chance to lose its flavor while sitting in a meat counter. It also allows you to customize fat content in it as store bought one sometimes has loads of fat and a bit of gristle in it.
The dish offers subtle balance of spicy, sweet, salty, and tart from the dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, and chillies. The herbs add freshness and burst more flavor, making the dish tastes more complex.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 stalk lemongrass minced
- 2 red chilies thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 500 gr ground chicken
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 3 tbsp Asian fish sauce
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 onion thinly sliced
- 4 shallots thinly sliced
- 1 cup coriander leaves roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
- 1 small lettuce leaves separated, for serving
Soak sliced onion and shallots in ice water to get rid their strong taste.
Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add lemon grass, chilies and garlic. Stir until fragrant. Add ground chicken, stirring constantly to break up any lumps until the chicken is cooked.
Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar until incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Transfer the chicken to a big serving bowl.
Drain the onion and shallots. Add onion, shallots, coriander leaves, and mint leaves over the warm chicken. Mix gently but thoroughly.
Serve with lettuce and warm rice.