Chicken Larb served with red leaf lettuce and english cucumbers
I often wonder why people like Thai food so much. The most accessible versions are often too sweet, overly-reliant on coconut milk, and just plain Americanized. I say this only because it is SO easy to happen upon mediocre restaurants; just take your pick from any one of the handful of restaurants that are probably within a mile of your house. While Thai food is most certainly not the only type of ethnic cuisine to fall victim to oversaturation and Americanization, it is the cuisine that I hold most dear to my heart, so I can’t help but take half-assed recipes personally. This, my dear friends, is why I am sharing my family’s Larb recipe with you: complete with a secret ingredient! I truly hope you love it as much as I do.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or part of a family-style meal with other dishes
– 1 pound organic ground chicken (beef or turkey will also work)
– 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 red onion, sliced thinly
– 1/4 cup white jasmin rice, toasted
– Juice from 2 limes
– 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
– 1-4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
– 1/2 teaspoon sugar
– 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
– ground black pepper
Rice. Toasted. Yep, that’s the key. If you’ve never experienced this flavor profile before it truly should not be missed. Similar to sesame oil, it’s all about the fragrance: slightly nutty and even a little smokey it’s unlike anything else.
In a skillet over medium heat, add a single layer of jasmin rice (uncooked). Swirl the pan regularly to avoid burning and adjust the heat as needed. If the grains are popping lower the heat, but if they are not browning after a few minutes raise slightly. After about 10 minutes the grains should no longer be translucent but milky white and mostly browned. Remove from head and add directly into a blender.
Toasted jasmin rice – after 10 minutes
Compare the colors – untoasted and toasted
Pulse the rice into a coarse powder. The texture will be inconsistent: very fine with some larger granules mixed in. Set aside.
Toasted rice ground into a coarse powder
Finely mince the garlic and set aside. Then thinly slice one purple onion and set aside.
Paper-thin slices of red onion
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once up to temperature add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant but do not brown (about 1 minute). Add the ground chicken and begin to brown. Add half of the fish sauce (1-2 teaspoons) and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix well and break into small pieces.
Note: Ground chicken and turkey tend to take a bit more work to break into smaller pieces.
Tip: Which ever protein you choose, please use a high-quality grade without additives or hormones. This makes all the difference in the world as the texture and taste of this dish is really all about the protein. (If you’ve ever had an off batch of ground turkey, you know that texture is essential!)
Continue to brown until slightly underdone, add lime juice, remaining teaspoon fish sauce, red chili flakes, and a small pinch of sugar. Mix together, then add the toasted rice powder. Continue to cook until the chicken is completely cooked through. Turn off heat and add the onions. Taste for seasoning and add more fish sauce or lime juice as needed. Mix well and set aside.
Just before serving add the chopped cilantro and mix well. Serve with crisp whole red lettuce leaves and thick slices of english cucumber.
Tip: Since I was bringing this as a potluck dish I didn’t add as much of the red chili flakes as usual. If you’re worried about your guests tolerance for heat, you can always add less and have a small dish on the side for each person to add extra.
One of my all-time favorite dishes I really want you to have the chance to taste it as it’s truly intended. It’s a super simple dish that will have you second guessing that last minute take-out. If for nothing else, you must try this to check out the toasted rice; it’s a flavor and scent that’s unlike anything else. Please let me know what you think!
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