Have you ever eaten Larb Gai in a Thai restaurant? I had never had it till a few years ago, and I just love it. Unfortunately it is almost never present on a lunch menu, which is when we try to go for Thai food in order to save a bit of money, so unless I want to get takeout at dinnertime, I don’t get to eat Larb Gai very often.
The other day I was craving it, and we are trying to keep our eating out to a minimum this month, so I went looking for recipes. When a recipe depends on flash frying in a super hot wok, I have found that I just can’t get the amount of heat that a restaurant can, and the dish is just never quite as good. But the recipes I found for Larb Gai say that the chicken should be cooked at a lower temperature, because you just want to cook it through, not brown it. Perfect! So I decided to try it.
This is the recipe I used. The blog’s author is also a linguist, and goes into a fascinating discussion of Thai transliteration, which I loved since I’m also interested in languages. Anyway, turns out her recipe is quite good too.
The first snag along the way came when I could not find toasted rice powder. I went to my favorite Asian grocery and poked around, and I found pretty much every other rice product known to man, but not that. This grocery is heavily slanted to Vietnamese products, and doesn’t have much in the way of Thai groceries. Anyway, I came home disappointed, because the recipe author says that toasted rice powder is an absolutely necessary ingredient. She has another post about making your own though, so I decided I would try it.
She recommends Thai glutinous rice, which I had seen but not bought, so rather than go back to the Asian grocery, I took a cue from another recipe I read and decided to just use Thai jasmine rice, which I had. I’m sure that the original blogger would not approve, but I was determined by that time.
To make the toasted rice powder, you just put the rice in a dry frying pan over medium heat, and stir it around until it gets brown and toasty. Then you let it cool, and put it through a spice grinder. This is how it looks when it’s finished.
So, with that necessary piece completed, I went ahead and finished the dish. It’s easy:
Larb Gai (adapted from She Simmers)
1 lb. ground chicken
1/2 cup water, if necessary (I used about 1/4 cup)
2 large shallots, peeled and finely sliced lengthwise
1 Tablespoon toasted rice powder
Fish sauce, to taste (I used about 2 Tablespoons)
Lime juice, to taste (I used 3 Tablespoons)
Ground dried red pepper, to taste
1/2 cup whole cilantro leaves (I chopped them)
1/3 cup mint leaves (I chopped them, too)
Cook the chicken over medium heat until just cooked through. Add water if the chicken is completely dry.
Take the pan off the heat and immediately add the shallots, tossing to wilt them.
Add the fish sauce and the lime juice to taste. Add the toasted rice powder, and toss.
Add the dried red pepper to taste. As you can imagine, I added a lot, but you can be a bit more circumspect if you don’t like spicy things.
Mix in the mint leaves and cilantro and serve. I served mine with steamed jasmine rice and lettuce leaves, which you can use to pick up the larb, if desired. Serves 2.