My friend Por in Thailand suggested that we try to make her favorite Thai dish! I can’t thank her enough for suggesting it because it is an awesome dish! This zesty chicken dish explodes with flavors and could seriously impress folks at a dinner party. For a meal you could have grilled mango and coconut sorbet or sweet sticky rice for desert.
Por told us the main spices in Thai dishes are chili, fish sauce, lime, and sugar. For this recipe, Por suggested that we combine the fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice first. She said, “It will give you a really strong taste and smell but don’t worry because after you add it to the chicken it will be OK.” Por was right about the smell! She finished with the advice, “If it’s too salty add sugar and maybe you can add a little bit of hot water to dilute it. If you can’t do anything about it, just add chili!”
We looked up Thai markets in the Bay Area and bought the ingredients in Oakland at Khanh Phong Supermarket in Chinatown on 9th Street after the EAT REAL festival. You can also check Whole Foods for any of these ingredients as well. I know Whole Foods carries Lemongrass and Thai Jasmine Rice.
Laab Kai (Larb Kai)
Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad
1 lb. Of ground/minced chicken breast (boneless) [we asked the butcher to grind chicken breast for us]
3/4 Cup Chicken Stock
4 tsp. Peanut or Canola Oil
2 tsp. Ginger, finely chopped
2 TBSP. Lemon Grass, finely chopped (cut off the bulb and slice it, then chop)
8 Green Onions/Shallots, sliced
1/2 Cup Raw Rice (such as Jasmine Rice or White Rice)
3/4 Cup Mint Leaves, chopped
3/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped
3/4 tsp. Kaffir Lime Leaves (optional), finely sliced (can use lime zest)
4 TBSP. Green Onions, finely chopped
1 1/4 tsp. Thai Parsley (optional, we didn’t use it)
1-4 Fresh Red Chilies, depending on how spicy you like (Jalapenos could work too)
(I used 1, Zach & John had an additional 2 just in their bowls)
4 Lettuce Leaves (such as Romaine)
1/4 Cup Lime Juice
1-4 TBSP. Fish Sauce (we used 1 TBSP, but we were wimps)
1 tsp. Red Chili Powder
1 tsp. Sugar
Heat a frying pan to medium heat and add the rice. Toast the rice until it is golden brown and if you taste one, it should be crunchy. Keep stirring it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
When the rice is cool, grind/cut it just a little bit in the blender. Don’t cut it up too much at all. Set aside.
Mix the salad dressing and set aside.
Cut up the herbs and vegetables. Mix well in a bowl big enough to add the chicken mixture to later after cooking.
Heat up a wok or larger frying pan with the oil on hot. Stir fry the ginger, lemon grass, and green onions/scallions for no more than 30 seconds. Turn down the heat to medium and add the chicken stock and ground chicken. Stir frequently. Cook the chicken until it is cooked all the way through and no longer pink (4-6 minutes or so). The chicken should cook at least 1 minute longer than when it is cooked all the way through and no longer pink. When done, turn off the heat.
While cooked chicken mixture is hot, add the chicken mixture to the herb and vegetable bowl and toss with the dressing. Serve immediately.
Place the 3-4 romaine lettuce leaves on each plate or bowl and spoon the chicken and vegetable mixture on top.
Zach: To be honest I didn’t really expect much from this recipe, but it was really really good. It has to be eaten right away while the rice is still crunchy, and it was very enjoyable eating it wrapped in some romaine lettuce. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.
John: I was amazed that this came out of our kitchen. The flavor and consistency were Thai restaurant-worthy and delicious to boot. As an aside, we ate the dish hot, served with whole romaine leaves, others prefer the entire concoction to be cold and served like a tossed salad. It doesn’t seem like there’s a wrong way to enjoy the Laab, so go for it!