Laos’ national dish a tasty starter
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 !
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
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
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.