Laotian Chicken Salad (Larb Gai)
In the forgotten country of Laos, the small city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the crown jewel. It’s surrounded by majestic mountains, with beautiful temples next to French colonial architecture, where you’ll be greeted by the kind and peaceful Laotian people. It was certainly the unexpected highlight of my month-long trip around Indochina. The prominence of food was also unexpected - fresh market produce like fresh fish, chilli and sticky rice, and friendly street vendors were along every street. You can see more of our trip here.
The national dish of Laos is Larb - a delicious salad that combines finely chopped meat with fresh herbs, chilli and lime juice. Toasted rice is added to thicken the sauce and give the dish a fragrant aroma. You can use almost any meat for Larb - chicken, beef, pork, fish or duck. Here I have used chicken, or Gai, breast meat as part 1 of 3 chicken dishes. To serve, sticky rice is the perfect compliment to mop up the sauce, while some cucumber slices help to cool down your palate after all the chilli.
Makes enough for two
2 chicken breasts, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons raw glutinous rice
1 large shallot, finely sliced
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon galangal, freshly grated
Chilli, finely chopped (to taste)
Bunch of coriander, torn
Handful of mint leaves
What to do
Heat dry pan on medium, add raw rice grains to toast until brown all over, shaking pan regularly. Set rice aside to cool, then grind into powder.
In a separate pan sauté minced meat on medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through. Add a few tablespoons of water to pan if it gets too dry.
Remove from heat and stir in shallots, fish sauce and lime juice immediately. Add toasted rice powder, galangal, chilli, and toss to coat. Mix in coriander and mint leaves, before serving with sticky rice.