Herbed Chicken Salad (Larb Gai)
Larb Gai, Laap Gai, Lahb Gai... Oh the many ways to spell it in English. I'm sure you've seen this as a popular dish at many thai restaurants and each place makes it a little different. Herbs and meat here may alternate. I prefer dark meat chicken but I've seen roasted pork loin, shredded chicken, chopped duck, and rib eye steak. For this dish you can buy Khao Kua pre made in the store or make it fresh at home. (How to make your own Khao Kua, roasted rice powder)
Seasoning the meat is a la minute. For me, because this dish is seasoned in the moment, you can actually taste my mood in this salad. If it has been a rough day, my larb is extra spicy and extra heaping spoonful of khao kua, or toasted rice powder. If its earlier in the morning, its mildly salty, easy on the spicy, and with tons of mint.
Seasoning of this dish depends heavily on the order of which the salad is tossed. Perfuming the meat with strong aromatics is key to have the flavors really penetrate the meat, setting up a solid base of flavor. Adding the wet seasonings secondly allows us to get the base of the salad tasting right. Then we add texture with the dry seasonings after so they don't get too soggy and over worked. Finally, we add the herbs. Adding the herbs last allows the chicken to cool and lessen the likelihood of overly bruising the mint and cilantro leaves.
The essential layers of flavor for Larb Gai, in order:
+Perfuming the meat: Garlic, shallots, scallions.
+Wet Seasonings: Fish sauce and lime juice are then added, salted to taste.
+Dry Seasoning / Adding texture: The next layer is the dried ingredients, khao kua and ground chillis. These two add so much texture, smoky, and nuttiness to the salad.
+Delicate Herbs: Finally, a light toss with fresh mint and cilantro at the end. Adding the delicate herbs at the end and after seasoning prevents over tossing and brusing the leaves to heavily. Nobody wants bruised leaves
Here you go, good luck!
Herbed Chicken Salad (Larb Gai)
Prep 20 min | Cook 10 min | Serves 4
1 lb ground chicken thigh or pork
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup of sliced shallot or red onion
1 tbsp of toasted rice powder , khao kua
2 tbsp of fish sauce, plus more to taste
2 limes, plus more to taste
sea salt to taste
1/2 tsp of sugar
Dried ground thai chilli, to taste
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
10 mint leaves
1. Cook chicken in skillet over medium heat, no oil is needed. There should be some liquid, fat, juice that comes from the chicken naturally while cooking. If it gets too dry, add a few tablespoons of water. There should be no more than half a cup of liquid in the pan.
2. Place cooked chicken in a mixing bowl. To perfume the meat, add shallots/red onion, scallion, and garlic first while chicken is still warm.
3. Add two tablespoons of fish sauce and the juice of one lime to the mixture, toss and taste. I typically use up to 3 tablespoons of fish sauce and two medium sized juicy limes.
4. Add toasted rice powder, and desired amount of ground dried chillies. Once you achieve your desired taste, add your mint and cilantro.
6. Serve with a side of steamed jasmine rice or sticky rice.