Life’s a Feast: Larb gai

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PREP TIME: 10 mins
COOK TIME: 17 mins
SERVES: 6 people

A lot of people mistake larb to be of Thai descent, when in actual fact it is considered the national dish of Laos. It has trickled through the northern borders of Thailand from Laos, and is now a staple in most Thai restaurants throughout the world.

It has a wonderful balance of sweet, sour, salty and spice which harmonise together to tantalise your taste buds. I first learnt to make this dish in a little restaurant hut on the beach in Koh Tao, backpacking through Thailand when I was 23.

I loved this dish so much, I visited the hut day after day to order it, until the lovely owner eventually asked if I would like to learn how to make it! Larb is a very versatile dish that can be created using a variety of proteins. It is fast and simple to make and is seriously delicious. Enjoy!

Ingredients

500g skinless free range chicken breast,chopped finely (vegetarians can usetofu)

1 tablespoon lime juice

250ml of good-quality chicken stock

2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised (smashwhite end with the end of a knife)

5 lime leaves

2 tablespoons uncooked rice

1 small handful mint leaves

1 handful of coriander

2 small purple shallots (or half a red onion)

3 spring onions

1 lettuce

Dressing

100ml of lime juice (you can use lemon but has less punch)

1 tablespoon sugar (use palm sugar if you have it)

1 teaspoon chilli flakes (or powder)

3 tablespoons fish sauce

Method

1.Chop the chicken breast finely and marinade with 1 tablespoon of lime juice.

2.In a pan, heat the stock, lime leaves and lemon grass and allow the flavours to infuse for 3-4 mins on a gentle simmer.

3.Add in the finely-chopped chicken and stir to ensure clumps are not created. Poach the chicken in the broth for 3-4 mins until cooked.

4.Take off the heat and remove the lemon-grass and lime leaves and pour into a mixing bowl. Pour off about half the broth the chicken was poached in and cool to room temperature.

5.Combine all the dressing ingredients, and stir ensuring the sugar dissolves. Pour into chicken mixture and combine.

6.Meanwhile, roast the uncooked rice in a pan. As it heats, shake the pan and cook for 5-6 mins until the rice begins to just turn brown and pop.

7.Grind the rice now in a mortar and pestle into a grainy texture (slightly thicker than sand, or leave larger if you like more crunch).

8.Finely slice the coriander, mint, spring onions and shallots and add into the chicken mixture. Add in the roasted ground rice.

9.Pull off whole lettuce leaves and wash. Place a few heaped spoonfuls into each leaf and serve immediately.

NB:You can serve this in a variety of ways: as an entree wrapped in lettuce (although traditionally it’s served with cabbage and green beans), or with a side of rice as a main.

A couple of key points to note:

1. Don’t use minced meat … ensure you finely cut the protein yourself.

2. Make sure you add in the roasted, crushed rice just before serving so it doesn’t absorb the delicious juices and become soggy.