Laos’ na­tional dish a tasty starter

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

The dish be­low is un­doubt­edly one of my favourite dishes to come out of Asia. A lot of peo­ple mis­take larb to be of Thai ori­gin, when in ac­tual fact it is con­sid­ered the na­tional dish of Laos.

It has a won­der­ful bal­ance of sweet, sour, salty and spice, which har­monise to­gether to tan­tilise your taste buds.

I first learned to make this dish in a lit­tle restau­rant hut on the beach in Koh Tao, Thai­land when I was 23.

I loved this dish so much, I vis­ited the hut day after day to or­der it, un­til the lovely owner even­tu­ally asked if I would like to learn how to make it!

Larb is a very ver­sa­tile dish that can be cre­ated us­ing a va­ri­ety of pro­teins. It is sim­ple to make, healthy due to the pro­tein be­ing poached, and it is se­ri­ously de­li­cious.

You can serve this in a va­ri­ety of ways; as an en­tree wrapped in let­tuce (although tra­di­tion­ally its served with cab­bage and green beans), or with a side of rice as a main.

A cou­ple of key points to note: 1. Try not to use mince meat. En­sure you finely hand cut the pro­tein your­self, you will get a far su­pe­rior end prod­uct.

2. Make sure you add in the roasted, ground rice just be­fore serv­ing so it doesn’t ab­sorb the de­li­cious juices and be­come soggy.

3. Make sure you add in the fresh herbs once the chicken has cooled to room tem­per­a­ture so they do not dis­colour.

This dish just keeps you want­ing to go back for more and more. En­joy !

In­gre­di­ents

500g skin­less free range chicken breast , chopped finely 1tbl Lime Juice 250ml of Si­mon Gault Chicken stock 2 stalks of lemon­grass bruised ( smash white end with the end of a knife) 5 lime leaves 2tbl un­cooked rice 1 hand­ful mint leaves 1 hand­ful of co­rian­der 2 small pur­ple shal­lots (or half a red onion) 3 spring onions 1 let­tuce

Dress­ing

1⁄2 cup of lime juice 1tbl sugar (use palm sugar if you have it) 1-2 tsp chilli flakes (or pow­der) de­pend­ing on how much heat you like 3tbl fish sauce

Method

1. Chop the chicken breast finely and mari­nade with 1 tbl of lime juice. 2. In a pan, heat the stock, limes leaves and bruised le­mon grass and al­low the flavours to in­fuse for 3 to 4 mins on a gen­tle sim­mer. 3. Add in the finely chopped chicken and stir to en­sure clumps are not cre­ated. Poach the chicken in the broth for 3 to 4 mins un­til cooked. 4. Take off the heat and re­move the lemon­grass and lime leaves and pour into a mix­ing bowl. Pour off about half the broth the chicken was poached in and cool. 5. Com­bine all the dress­ing in­gre­di­ents and stir en­sur­ing the sugar dis­solves. Pour into chicken mix­ture and com­bine. 6. Mean­while, roast the un­cooked rice in a pan. As it heats, shake the pan and cook for 5-6 mins un­til the rice be­gins to slightly brown and ‘‘pop’’. 7. Grind the rice now in a mor­tar and pes­tle into a grainy tex­ture (slightly thicker than sand, or leave larger if you like more crunch) 8. Finely slice the co­rian­der, mint, spring onions and shal­lots and add into the cooled chicken mix­ture. Add in the roasted ground rice. 9. Pull off let­tuce leaves and wash. Place a few heaped spoon­fuls of the larb into each leaf and serve. Serves 6 as an en­tree.

Tra­di­tional: Chicken Larb by Masterchef NZ 2014 fi­nal­ist Bec Stan­ley.

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