This Northern Thai dish originates from Laos and is sometimes spelt “larb”. Even tho’ it is served at room temperature, the heat from the Thai red chili will make you break a sweat. This spicy sharpness together with the acid from the lime juice, the umami of the fish sauce, the essential oils from the mint and zest are balanced with the smokiness of the rice flour to create a flavor explosion moment. Laab is typically served with sticky rice but I like to serve the laab on endives to make a tasty appetizer. Using no oil in the cooking, this is as low fat as Asian foods go!
Chef’s tip: If you have the patience, pinch off the meat a little at a time as you add to the pot, instead of dunking the whole pound in all at once. This will ensure every bit of meat surface gets browned.
1 lb ground lean chicken or pork or turkey
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon roasted rice powder (from 3 tablespoon glutinous rice)
1 stalk lemon grass, white part only, very finely sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
4 Thai chilies, deseeded and chopped finely
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 sprig green onions, sliced
3 Tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
1 Tablespoon lime zest
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 head of iceberg lettuce or 2 endives
Cilantro or mint sprigs for garnish
Preparing the meat:
1. Heat a non stick pan under high heat, add the ground meat, 2 Tablespoons each of fish sauce and lime juice. Cook 10 minutes until the meat is cooked through, while stirring constantly. Transfer the meat to a large bowl. Drain off excess liquids.
Preparing the toasted rice:
2. Dry-fry the glutinous rice (without any oil) under medium heat till golden brown.
3. Remove, let cool slightly and grind into a powder with a spice mill, or a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
Preparing the herb and dressing:
4. Slice lemongrass, kaffir, and chilies. Zest lime. Mince green onions, cilantro and mint. Set aside.
5. Mix dressing ingredients together.
Preparing the lettuce cups
6. Remove the iceberg lettuce leaves one at a time and trim into little cups. If using endives, leave leaves whole. You may want to use the heart of the lettuce.
7. Pour the rice powder, herb mixture and dressing into the cooked meat and toss to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes for the flavor to come together.
8. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the chicken into the lettuce cups and garnish with a sprig of cilantro or mint.
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