Thai Minced Chicken Salad (Larb Gai)
Thai cuisine week continues! As referenced in my previous post, a few of the primary methods of preparation for Thai salad dishes are: Yam (“mix”), Tam (“pounded”), and Larb (“to mince meat”).
Larb is probably the most internationally recognized type of Thai salad. It is most commonly made with minced pork or chicken that is tossed with fresh herbs and a dressing that is bursting with spicy, sweet, and tart flavors.
I had attempted this several times at home, but could never really get it to taste restaurant-style. So when my sister and I traveled to Thailand last year, I was super eager to take a local cooking class to learn how to do it right. I learned quickly the importance of khao khua, sticky rice powder, which gives this salad a unique nutty flavor. I usually omitted that ingredient because I did not actually know what it was… but never again!
Specialty Southeast Asian grocery stores may carry packaged toasted rice powder, but if you cannot find it – you can make it fairly easily at home. The recipe below shows how my teacher makes rice powder, which adds kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. However, you can omit those extra steps and just toast the rice and grind it to a powder.
Another tip I learned was regarding preparing the minced chicken. The healthiest way is to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and grind it in a food processor. But if you would rather not deal with grinding raw meat, the method we used in our cooking class was boiling store-bought ground chicken in water. My teacher noted that store-bought ground chicken is usually too fatty, so boiling in water will help remove the fat content. Unfortunately, it will also will remove most of the flavor and minerals, so she recommended to mix in some chicken bouillon to add back the flavor.
I love eating this salad in a lettuce wrap with tons of fresh herbs, but you can also grab a spoon and eat it as a delicious meaty salad.
Larb Gai (recipe from Aleenta Resort)
Yields: 4 servings
Larb Gai Ingredients:
- 1 lb minced chicken breast
- 1 C water
- 1 tsp granulated chicken bullion (or 1 cube bullion)
- 1/2 C cilantro leaves
- 1/4 C mint leaves
- 2 shallots, finely sliced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 4 tsp fish sauce
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 T toasted sticky rice powder
- pinch of sugar
Sticky Rice Power Ingredients:
- 2 T white sticky rice
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, finely minced (optional)
- 1/2 piece lemongrass, finely minced (optional)
If you are making your our rice powder, it is best to prepare it at least the day before. You can make it in larger batches and store in an airtight contained in your pantry until needed.
Roast the uncooked sticky rice without oil or butter in a pan at low heat. Stir constantly and after 5 minutes, add the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Roast until the rice turns a light golden color (estimated 10 minutes total). Allow to cool down and grind it into a powder with a mortar and pestle.
To prepare the Larb Gai, cook the ground chicken in a pot with the bouillon and water over medium heat. When the chicken is no longer pink, remove from heat and drain.
In a large bowl, add the chili powder, fish sauce, lime juice, sticky rice power, and a pinch of sugar to the cooked chicken and mix thoroughly.
Before serving, add the sliced shallots and fresh cilantro and mint leaves. Serve warm.