Traditional Thai Chicken Larb or Larb Gai does not make use of lemongrass, but as mentioned in my Health Benefit of Lemongrass blog, I find the opportunity to use it in my cooking whenever I can. In addition to lemongrass, my recipe of larb also includes ginger and garlic – all the good-for-you spices. Larb can also be made with minced pork or beef, but chicken is a healthier choice. This is a great dish for those adopting a Paleo diet. It’s quick and easy to make and the flavors of spices, herbs, lime juice, fish sauce and chili make for an exotic splendor.
Though typically eaten with rice or sticky rice by Thai people, chicken larb is considered a salad as larb means salad in Thai. Whenever I make this dish, I would simply eat it wrapped in either Boston or Romaine lettuce accompanied with lots of Asian herbs and sliced red radish. It is great as an appetizer, lunch or dinner. If I could have it for breakfast, I would.
One of the most essential ingredients in Thai larb recipe is something called ‘khao kua (ข้าวคั่ว)’, or ‘thin’ in Vietnamese. It’s basically ground toasted rice. You can either purchase it packaged in an Asian grocery store, or make it yourself. Though traditionally, sticky or glutenous rice is used, I often make it using brown rice and it can be stored for use up to a year.
Make ahead of time the roasted ground rice and store in a closed lid container. To make roasted ground rice, place the uncooked rice in a frying pan on low heat. Stir occasionally. Toast the rice until it turns to dark golden yellow – about 15 minutes. Let cool. Place the roasted rice in a blender or magic bullet and grind until it becomes a fine powder.
Prepare the rest of the ingredients. To find out how to prepare the minced lemongrass, check out my Health Benefit of Lemongrass blog.
In a medium sized frying pan, add the peanut oil, garlic, shallot on medium high heat and cook until the garlic starts to turn color, add minced chicken and 2 tablespoons water and fry, breaking the chicken apart into small pieces, until the chicken is fully cooked all the way through. Remove from heat, add the lemon grass, ginger, chili, lime, fish sauce, 3 tablespoons of the roasted ground rice, and give it a toss. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
To serve, spoon the larb gai onto 1 or 2 leaves of lettuce and a mixture of herbs and red radish. Enjoy!