Thai Chicken Salad-Larb Gia
Larb (pronounced lob) refers to a salady-kind of preparation in which chicken (gai) duck, beef, pork or even offal is minced, stir-fried plain and simple, then pumped up with flavour using fresh herbs, salty fish sauce and the sour pucker of lime juice. It’s a really easy dish to make and tastes best served at room temperature.
There’s one catch. You need a measly, one tablespoon of toasted rice powder to call this dish a success.
One option is to toast it yourself: toss a tablespoon of raw Thai jasmine rice into a dry frying pan and stir-fry on medium-high until it turns golden brown. Let it cool then buzz it into a powder in your coffee grinder.
Or you can set off on an adventure and try to buy the stuff at Fu Yao Supermarket on Gerrard Street. Admittedly, foraging through a Chinese supermarket’s shelves looking for an obscure “toasted rice powder” package will tax your patience
But no rice powder, no deal. The success of larb gai hinges on the nuttiness of this ingredient that also serves as a thickening agent.
Secondly, if you care about good texture, ground the chicken yourself. Get a pound of boneless chicken (hint: chicken thighs equal flavour) and process briefly with a steel blade in your food processor. Better still, mince it with a cleaver and unload a day’s worth of angst.
And thirdly, don’t even consider substituting the fresh coriander or mint with dried. (Yes I’m bossy, but it’s my blog.)
To serve this authentically, place it on a bed of lettuce with cabbage wedges and yard-long beans on the side.
But if you want to go girlie-girl for the book club chicks, get some iceberg lettuce, cut the head in half and pull apart the leaves to create crunchy lettuce bowls. Spoon your larb gai into these crunchy, edible vessels.
This dish hails from northeastern Thailand where it sidles up against the Laotian border, so both countries lay claim to its heritage and both eat it with sticky rice.