Friday, 6 August 2010

Larb gai - hot and sour minced chicken salad

I've been somewhat obsessive about this dish, cooking it repeatedly until I could eat it and imagine sitting at a rickety bamboo table, white sand between my toes, an ice cold Singha beer in hand, looking out to the deep blue sea of the Thai islands.

Now that you've sourced your galangal, nam pla, holy basil and palm sugar you're well on the way to creating this Thai classic, the larb gai salad. And you're only missing one unusual ingredient; toasted rice powder.

I know it sounds a bit scary on the sourcing front, but it's actually really easy to make yourself. Buy some sticky white rice from an oriental supermarket and toast on a medium heat in a dry frying pan for around 12 minutes, tossing it over regularly so it turns nutty golden brown all over. Then transfer it to a pestle and mortar and grind for a couple of minutes by hand (once toasted it breaks up really easily, so you don't need mega muscles for this bit).

Sharp, seriously spicy and quite sweet, with a fantastic toasted taste and grainy texture, this dish is seriously moreish and if chicken isn't your thing, beef works just as well.

Larb gai for two:
Two chicken breasts minced by hand (a ball ache that requires a clever, or put it very briefly into a food processor which is much easier) If you decide to use beef make it rump steak, and mince it in the same way.
75mls lime juice
75mls chicken stock
2-3 green chillies (depending on how hot you like it), finely chopped up
75mls Thai fish sauce
A knob of galangal and one of ginger, both peeled and finely grated
8 Thai shallots, peeled and finely sliced
2 tablespoons palm sugar
A handful each of fresh mint, holy basil and corriander, chopped up just before being needed
5 tablespoons toasted rice powder

- Combine in a saucepan all the ingredients apart from the shallots, fresh herbs and rice powder
- Put a lid on the pan and on a low to medium heat bring the chicken to the simmer
- There isn't much liquid in the pan so you'll need to keep turning the chicken to make sure its all covered in the liquid
- Once its at simmering point, remove the lid and cook through for around 4 minutes to make sure all the chicken is cooked through - add the shallots half way through this cooking
- Test the taste and make sure there is a good balance of spicy to sour to sweet - it should taste very intense so don't be scared to adjust the flavours if they need it (you might need more nam pla, lime juice, chilli or palm sugar)
- Remove the chicken from the heat and stir through the herbs and 3/4's of the rice powder, mix through until combined
- Serve on shredded iceberg lettuce and top with the remaining rice powder, then devour

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