One of my favorite things to order in a Thai restaurant is Larb. It's a delightful salad with ground meat, usually pork, although I like to use chicken. It has the delightful combination of cilantro and mint with that wonderful Thai combination of flavors - salty, sour, hot and sweet in a dressing made with lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Then it is tossed with shallots, green onions and roasted rice, which I think adds the most wonderful crunch. I order Larb a lot so I decided to start making it at home whenever I crave it. I almost always have the basic ingredients in my kitchen and there is cilantro and mint on my windowsill. I hand cut the chicken breast into very small pieces because I think it is fun and I like the texture better, but you can certainly buy ground chicken or pork if you prefer. I like to add a bit of chicken broth while cooking the chicken to keep it moist, otherwise it can get quite dry. I also cook the shallots with the chicken for just a moment as I think it takes the edge off them, but if you like, you can keep them uncooked. I do leave the green onions uncooked and toss them on as part of the garnish. The only tricky part is making the roasted rice. I use a cast iron skillet and you have to watch carefully so it won't burn. The rice needs to roast to a nice medium brown color or it won't taste done, but it is easy to go to far - so stay with it and keep stirring! Then you grind it in a mortar and pestle. Like many Thai dishes, it is really quite simple to make and the results are spectacular. I think it makes the perfect lunch. It was a big hit around here and I think it will be in your home too!
3/4 pound chicken breast, chopped into small pieces (or can use ground chicken or pork)
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Jasmine Rice
1 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 shallot, trimmed and chopped
1 Tablespoons Chicken Broth
3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Heaping Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Thai Chili (green or red), sliced into thin rings (can also substitute a Serrano Chili)
Juice of 2 - 3 limes - equal to about 1/4 cup
2 green onions, washed, trimmed and cut into small diagonal pieces
1/4 cup Cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Mint leaves
4 lettuce leaves, washed to line plate and 2 or 3 more torn into bite sized pieces
Combine the chicken breast pieces with the Soy Sauce and mix together. Heat the Jasmine Rice in a large frying pan and stir continuously over medium high heat until the rice becomes brown. Take off the heat immediately and put the rice into a mortar and pestle and grind it until it resembles fine crumbs. In another bowl, mix together the Fish Sauce, Brown Sugar, Thai Chili and Lime Juice. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.
In the same frying pan, put in the Vegetable Oil and heat. Add the Chicken and stir until it is just barely pink. Add in the Chicken Broth and stir until the broth is nearly gone and then add in the Shallots and toss. Remove to a bowl and add in the dressing, toss to coat the chicken thoroughly. Place lettuce leaves onto a plate and place the bite sized pieces on top. Put the chicken mixture on top and sprinkle the rice powder over it along with the cilantro and mint.
Five Element Analysis
Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and so that element is covered. The lettuce and chiles contribute the Fire Element. The sugar contributes the Earth Element and the shallots, green onions, cilantro and mint bring in the Metal Element. Finally, the fish sauce adds the Water Element so all the elements are present and this is a completely balanced dish!