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Thai Chicken Salad (Laab)
This has been a favourite dish of ours for a quick healthy lunch ever sibnce we first ate Laab in Korat back 20 some years ago. Laab, sometimes spelled Larb, is a common dish in Issan-North East Thailand as well as in Laos.
It can be made with minced chicken or pork, but I usually use minced chicken meat. When it comes to salad-as-meal, few culinary cultures have it over
Thailand, where salads often reach main-course status as a complete meal.
This salad combines the flavour and texture of minced meat with the flavour of toasted rice and fresh Thai herbs.
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken meat, breast or thigh (or pork)
Juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Dried Thai roasted red chile flakes, or fresh minced Thai Chiles to taste
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 green onions
1 Stalk lemon grass, bottom portion minced
3 Kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
6 sprigs fresh cilantro
6 sprigs fresh mint
1 tablespoon raw white sticky rice
Mixed baby greens, romaine, or Nappa cabbage
Mince the raw chicken. You can cut it into chunks and process it
in the food processor (steel blade)or whack with two meat clevers quickly until minced. Boneless pork loin or tenderloin may be substituted.
Place the chopped meat in a bowl and mix it well with about half of the lime juice.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet or a wok, add the dried Thai chiles, and briefly cook the chopped meat. It should just cook through, losing its pink colour but remaining moist and tender.
Pace the meat aside to cool. Drain off any excess fat.
Mix together the remaining lime juice and the fish sauce, and stir it into the meat.
Chop the shallot, green onions, cilantro and mint.
Stir the chopped shallots and green onions in with the meat. Add about
half of the chopped cilantro and mint, setting the rest aside.
Toast the raw sticky (glutinious)white rice in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until it turns golden brown, stirring it frequently and keeping a
close eye on it so it doesn't scorch. As soon as it is evenly browned, pour it out of the skillet into a small mortar, and grind it with a pestle until it's a crunchy powder or grind in clean coffee grinder. Stir about half of this into the meat mixture and set the rest aside.
Note: I usually do a larger amount of this toasted rice and keep on hand in a glass jar to use in various Thai dishes.
Wash, spin dry and roughly shred enough romaine lettuce and/or
Nappa cabbage to make a good-size salad, or use a baby greens mixture.
Place this salad mix into a large ooden slad bowl. Top with the meat mixture, and garnish with the reserved cilantro, mint and toasted rice.
Serve, with extra sauce such as nam pla phrik on the side, and steamed
rice if you like. Often Sticky Rice is served on the side for Laab. You take small amounts of the rice and form small balls of rice which you poip intoyour bowl between bites of the laab. This will make for a heavy lunch and you will be wanting a nap as they take in Thailand after such a meal.
We usually forego the rice unless it is for an evening meal.
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