I have made the point of naming this Laos’ Larb Kai because it came to my attention while we were travelling in Laos, that the delicious meat salad called larb, did, in fact, originate in Laos, not Thailand as many believe.
I have always enjoyed larb at the Thai restaurants in Adelaide, and in Thailand itself. I wasn’t surprised to see it on the menu in Laos, but I assumed, incorrectly, that the idea had derived from Thailand, not the other way around. In fact, it is regarded as the national dish of Laos – unofficially.
This spicy meat salad is served at room temperature with sticky rice or salad vegetables.
3 Tbs of uncooked sticky rice (Optional)
300g of chicken mince
3-4 Asian shallots, finely sliced
2-3 stalks of spring onion, finely sliced (optional)
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
a handful each of mint and coriander* chopped
1 Tbs chilli flakes
The juice of one lime
1 Tbs fish sauce
1/2 Tbs brown sugar
How I make my larb…
The first step is to toast the rice. I say optional for the rice because I have made it many times without the rice when I just wanted to make a quick meal. The toasted rice just adds texture.
To toast the rice, I just heated a wok on low heat without oil and added the rice. I continued to stir the rice until it browned and started to smell like popcorn about 10-15mins.
After I let the rice cool a little, I ground it in a mortar with a pestle to a powder and set it aside.
For the salad dressing, I mixed the juice of one lime with the fish sauce and brown sugar and set aside.
For the larb I added a little oil to my wok and fried up the chicken mince, breaking up any big lumps as I went. I removed the chicken from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. This is when I prepared my vegetables (cucumber and beans) with which I was going to serve with the larb.
Once I was ready to serve I added the shallot, spring onion, and chilli flakes to the chicken in the wok and stirred it well (without heat). I then tossed in the mint, coriander, chopped red chilli and mixed well. I added the dressing next giving the salad a mix, before finally adding three tablespoons of the rice powder.
TIP: add the rice powder gradually as is will depend on the texture you want – I added one tablespoon gave the salad a good toss and did a taste test, before repeat that same process twice more.
Serve with rice or lettuce cups, or as I did with sliced cucumber and green beans.
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