Larb Gai is Thailand's version of a Western-style grilled chicken salad, except the chicken is not grilled--it's stir-fried. This dish is classic, traditional Thai. While this recipe is made with chicken, in Thailand, pork and even beef are also used.
Larb Gai is best served while the chicken is still hot from the pan and the greens are cold, though you can also serve it with rice. A key ingredient is fresh mint, which marries beautifully with the chicken. This dish so good, it's a little addictive!
- Salad Dressing:
- Juice of 1 lime (1/4 cup)
- 4 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 to 1 fresh red chili, minced, or 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chili
- 4 to 5 loose cups fresh arugula, or other garden greens of your choice
- 10 to 15 mint leaves (chopped finely)
- 3 green onions (sliced)
- A handful of fresh basil
- 1 small red bell pepper (diced)
- 1/2 cucumber (sliced or diced)
- 4 tablespoons uncooked sticky rice or Japanese sweet rice (or 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped peanuts or cashews)
- 2 teaspoon oil for stir frying (a neutral oil like canola or vegetable is best)
- 1 shallot, or 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 pound chicken breast, chopped up into small pieces, or ground chicken (or pork or turkey)
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, cut into thin slivers with scissors, optional
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce for frying chicken
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients together in a cup or bowl. Stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside.
- Combine all the cold salad ingredients in a large salad bowl (arugula/salad greens, mint, green onions, basil, red pepper, and cucumber). If using rice, see instructions below. Set aside.
- Place 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, chicken and lime leaf (if using). As you stir-fry, add the fish sauce. Also, add a little water if the pan becomes dry. Stir-fry until chicken is cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer the hot chicken to the salad bowl with prepared salad ingredients. Pour over the dressing and toss well. Finally, add the chopped nuts or ground toasted rice.
- Taste test the salad, adding more fish sauce if you prefer it saltier or more flavorful. Add more dried crushed chili if you prefer it spicier. If too bitter, add a little more sugar.
- Garnish with more mint or basil leaves or with some edible flowers. Serve immediately while the chicken is still warm.
Ground toasted rice is traditionally added to this salad. This dish is also delicious without it or with ground or chopped nuts added instead. However, if you'd like to make this salad the authentic way, here's how:
- Place uncooked rice in a dry wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. As rice heats up, shake the pan back and forth or stir with a spoon. After 6 to 8 minutes, the rice will turn a light golden brown and begin to pop (like popcorn).
- When it begins to pop, transfer to a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. Grind down to a coarse powder. (A coffee grinder works well for this. Simply wipe out with a clean, dry cloth, then pour in your rice and grind. For pestle and mortar, use a firm, circular grinding motion.)