There are several kinds of larb from Northern Thailand which do not use lime or fish sauce, but rather other local condiments for flavor and seasoning. “Larb pla” (Thai: ลาบปลา) is a kind of larb which is made of minced fish mixed with spices. There is also a kind of larb called lu (Thai: หลู้), which is made of minced raw beef or pork mixed with blood, bile and spices. Lu is usually eaten with vegetables and often served with beer or the local moonshine called lao khao.
Larb gai (chicken larb) is a much loved Thai dish originating out of the North Eastern part of the country, Isaan. It’s great with sticky rice and some crunchy vegetables as a garnish and although it tastes quite complex, it’s actually very easy to make. It’s also something less commonly seen on Thai restaurant menus outside of Thailand – which adds to the fun and adventure of it all!
It is important here to use chicken with the skin-on. Boneless skinless chicken breasts will make a too dry and not flavorful larb. Once the skin is minced finely, no one will really notice it anyway.
Spicy Minced Chicken Salad with Mint and Toasted Rice (Laab Gai)
- 1 lb. boneless chicken, chopped or ground
- 1 Tbs. peanut oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced and pounded to a paste
- 1 stalk lemon grass (optional), trimmed and sliced into thin rounds or chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 green onions (use white part only), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 small pieces dried galanga, toasted and then ground finely
- 2-4 tsp. ground roasted dried Thai chillies
- 3+ Tbs. fish sauce (nam bplah), to taste
- Juice of 2-3 limes, to desired sourness
- 1/2 to 1 tsp. sugar as needed to balance flavors
- 2 Tbs. ground roasted rice
- An assortment of raw or lightly steamed vegetables and aromatic herbs, such as: sprigs of various tropical basils and mints, green beans/long beans Thai eggplant, cabbage morning glory/water cress, cucumber/squash/zucchini lettuce etc.
Cook the chopped or ground chicken in a little bit of oil in a wok until thoroughly cooked, breaking into small bits. Set aside.
Prepare the garlic, lemon grass (if using), shallot, green onions and mint. Toast the galanga in a small dry pan over medium heat until the pieces are darkened and slightly charred. Let cool before grinding in a clean coffee grinder to a fine powder. Then roast a handful of whole dried Thai chillies in the pan, turning frequently until they are darkened and slightly charred. Grind into a fine powder.
Toss the cooked chicken with the garlic, lemon grass, shallot, green onion, mint, ground toasted galanga and chillies, fish sauce and lime juice. Mix well. Taste and adjust flavors to desired sourness, hotness and saltiness. Add sugar only as needed to pull the flavors together. Toss the toasted rice powder into the mixture and serve salad at room temperature with a tray of assorted vegetables and herbs.
The cooking class at Suwannee is an ideal home-style learning environment that is different from most of the opportunities in the hotels and restaurants in Thailand. Not will you be only watch and participate in the cooking of a number of traditional Thai dishes; also as part of our course we visit a local market to learn about local exotic fruits and vegetables, there is always an abundance of new things to see……and taste!