Larb Gai | Laotian Chicken Salad

Larb Gai

First of all, I wanted to thank you all for your wonderful comments of support on my last post about my RA. It was really lovely reading all your warm words of encouragement and that alone has made me much stronger and more determined, so thank you!

It was also nice to hear from many of you on the issue of GMOs. I am a glad that I am not the only one slightly freaked out about what we are eating and what we are feeding our children. It was great to get information from different parts of the world and to see how GMOs are treated there. I still find it very worrying that I cannot pick up a package of anything and be confident.

Summer time is one time I stock my house with some packaged chips, crackers, cookies etc. The children are all home from school and they raze through the pantry, every hour it seems. I cannot keep up with the baking and cooking so I keep ready made stuff on hand. However, it’s totally impossible to buy something from a regular grocery store and be confident that even though it might not be healthy; it is at least made out of “natural” ingredients that grew in a field and not in a lab.

Anyway, on to today’s recipe. On the rare occasion that I find myself sitting down and watching a food show, I actually like to watch the Cooking Channel shows. Usually here, the chefs/cooks are pretty down to earth and there is a great variety of cuisines featured. If Luke Nguyen’s show on Vietnam is on, I always try and watch it. His show always has some unique dishes that most of the time I have never heard of but they are so colourful, full of flavour and usually use minimal ingredients. In the summer time, these are the perfect recipes. What helps me further is that most of these are gluten free and can be easily made vegetarian for my one child. I love it when I only have to cook one dinner.

This Larb Gai salad is one I saw on Luke’s show on Laos. It’s a typical Laotian chicken salad (though the Thai make a similar salad also) made with lots of fresh herbs, spicy ground chicken and a sweet and salty dressing.

Larb Gai

For a hot summer’s day, this is a perfect salad. It requires very little standing over a hot stove, and lots of fresh vegetables and herbs. The mint and cilantro are a must so don’t leave them out. I couldn’t find his recipe that was on the show but since there were such few ingredients and I was familiar with all of them, I just recreated it to my taste.

One thing I did have to research was toasted ground rice that is an important ingredient in the salad. It’s hardly very difficult to make, toast some rice till brown and fragrant and then grind up in a spice mill. So easy but so necessary. This actually adds a tonne of toasty flavour to the meat and also helps thicken the juices a tad bit. It is also available ready made at Asian stores but that seems like a totally unnecessary purchase when it’s so easy to make.

Larb Gai

So while that mint is taking over your garden and cilantro is plentiful you must make this salad. You will be blown over by its fresh herby taste and the popping flavours; sweet, salty and tart.

Whenever I cook with meat, I always add turmeric because it is an antiseptic. I just like the reassurance that my meat has been somehow sanitised by the turmeric! So, in the photos the ground chicken looks like scrambled eggs because of the yellow colour! Which would actually make a good vegetarian option. You can also use organic tofu to replace the meat.

Larb gai

Larb Gai | Laotian Chicken Salad

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 6-8

A refreshing salad with spicy ground chicken, mint and cilantro all tossed in a sweet, spicy and tart dressing.
  • 2 pounds/1kg ground chicken
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion/shallots
  • 1 green chilli (or more if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons toasted ground rice
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1 head of butter or red leaf lettuce (soft lettuce), chopped roughly
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped in medium slices
  • large handful green beans, blanched and chopped
  • 1 large bunch of mint, leaves only roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped leaves
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce or GF organic soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown sugar (more if desired)
  1. Add all the ingredients together and check for seasonings.
  2. The dressing should be a nice balance of sweet, tangy and salty.
  3. Adjust the quantities accordingly and to taste.
  1. In a large bowl or platter, arrange the lettuce leaves
  2. Add the cucumbers and green beans
  3. And add the mint, cilantro and green chilli.
  4. Put aside and make the chicken.
  1. In a wok or large fry pan, heat the oil on medium high.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  3. Add the ground chicken and the turmeric if using.
  4. Toss around breaking up the chicken and cook until the pink has gone and the chicken is almost done.
  5. Add the fish sauce and cook until chicken is cooked all the way.
  6. Add the onions or shallots, the green chilli and the lime juice.
  7. Make sure that most of the juices have evaporated and then add the toasted ground rice.
  8. Too much ground rice can make the meat a bit slimy so don't add too much.
  9. The 3 tablespoons are enough to add a toasty flavour and absorb some of the juices.
  10. Taste to check the seasonings.
  11. The meat should be spicy from the green chilli, slightly salty from the fish sauce and tangy from the lime.
  12. Adjust accordingly to taste, add more if needed.
  13. Keep the chicken aside and keep warm.
  14. When ready to serve, toss the salad with a few tablespoons of the dressing.
  15. Keep the chicken on the side and let people top their own salads with the ground chicken.
  16. Keep some extra dressing and lime slices on the side for anyone who wants more.
  17. Serve with a side of sticky rice.
The salad is supposed to be spicy with lots of green Thai chiilies or any chilli of your choice. I used Serrano chillies and used 1 whole between the chicken and salad. You can use more if you can handle the spice but for the kids, I kept it low key. The soy sauce is not traditional in the dressing but because I have such major issues with the smell and taste of fish sauce, I use soy sauce. Also my vegetarian child prefers the soy for a veggie option. The dressing should marry all the flavours: tart, spicy, sweet and salty. Adjust to your liking by tasting. You could also mix in all the meat into the salad and toss around, but since I have kids who some like a lot and some don't want any, I just leave the meat on the side. The sticky rice on the side might seem strange, because it did to me at first, but let me tell you how perfectly it goes with this salad. It tames the heat and soaks the lovely dressing and is just wonderful, so make the rice! Also, do not leave out the toasted ground rice it adds amazing depth of flavour. If you don't have a problem with fish sauce then the dressing will be GF but if you do, like me, then choose a GF organic soy sauce (to avoid GMOs) to make the dressing

Larb Gai

Definitely try out this very fragrant and refreshing salad. Just the smell alone of the mint and cilantro should entice you to make and eat a huge bowlful. It has quickly become a favourite in our house.

The chicken version is the most traditional but it can be made with any meat so its open to great variations and though the vegetables are traditionally just a few green ones, there is no reason why you can’t add some colour.

I am excited for you all to try this out because I think you will love it and it’s so easy! Let me know what you think if you do.

Hoping everyone has had a great start to the week and is bubbling with energy and enthusiasm!


Nazneen Written by:

Indian by ancestry, American by motherhood and British by choice, I live in beautiful Colorado with my husband and four kids and, I love coffee...all kinds of coffee.


  1. July 1, 2013

    Perfect and refreshing summer salad, Nazneen. I used to watch a lot of HGTV and Food Network few years ago. Now a days, I don’t even turn on the TV, so thank you for introducing the salad to me :)
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Lail! Me too, I used to watch it quite often but lately I hardly turn it on. I just watch my recorded shows while I eat lunch or something, but leisurely watching a food show…doesn’t happen.

    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Its delicious and you’d love it! Give it a try!

  2. June 30, 2013

    What a deliciously fresh looking salad! I do have an abundance of mint and coriander growing in my garden at the moment so this will be a great way to use it! :)

    I am always looking for fresh salad ideas :)
    I also just followed you on bloglovin, please stop over and say hi on my site when you have the chance :)
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Hi! Thank you for following and I will definitely check out your site. Thanks you for stopping by!


    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Jen! It’s really good and so refreshing when its hot out.

  3. June 27, 2013

    Lovely recipe! Thank you so much for sharing it!

    And you are definitely not the only one wondering what exactly is going into our food! I’ve started buying our meat and eggs from a local SPCA approved farmer. Its more expensive but helps put my mind at ease :-)
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Kim! It shouldn’t be expensive…why can’t we have normal, proper food?

  4. June 26, 2013

    Luke Nguyen is a genius and I used to love his series when I watched it. Now I barely get time.The salad with all those fresh herbs and greens is so refreshing and light. Ground rice I bet would be a great textural addition. And glad you added turmeric, it contrasts so well!
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Sonali! It’s a great salad and I love all the components too; very flavourful.

    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Peachy! I am sure this is quite similar to what you may have over there. Lovely flavours.

  5. June 26, 2013

    We practically live on salads during the summer! Love having a nice one-dish recipe like this. We’ve got tons of mint at the moment, although not so much cilantro – just can’t seem to get that to grow properly for some reason. This dish has so many terrific flavors! Quite nice – thanks.
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      I should eat more salads but I don’t know why I don’t! Mint in salads is wonderful and adds that summery touch. Looking forward to some of your salad recipes John!

  6. June 26, 2013

    What a lovely refreshing salad. I like to watch ‘Vietnam’ as well. Re the GMO’s, there’s one GMO free product you can buy and that’s Barilla pasta. I just did a course with them (post is on its way) and they don’t use any GMO products in either their pastas or their pasta sauces. And they’ll be launching a GF pasta range in NYC in October. Well…that’s the pasta sorted! xx
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thats excellent to hear Charlie! I always use Barilla pasta because I love how it cooks and turns out perfect every time. Now I can be confident buying their products. Thanks Charlie.

    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Nusrat! It’s a great salad with a lot of flavour.

  7. June 26, 2013

    I love the fish sauce AND herbs in this …can’t go wrong, killer combinations!!

    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Angie! I love the herbs especially!

  8. June 26, 2013

    I love Luke Nguyen too, almost as much as I love Laab! I make my Laab Thai style and agree that making your own toasted rice is easy and cheap. I learned in Thailand that you can add fabulous flavour to the toasted rice if you add lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal to the rice as its toasting and then store the rice and extras in an air-tight container until you need to use it. The flavour develops over time and the toasted rice becomes wonderfully fragrant!

    Very impressed that your children eat such a strongly flavoured dish!
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Jas and I love that tip about adding lemon grass and kaffir lime..I’m going to try that!

    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks! Yes, its incredibly summery!

  9. June 26, 2013

    Ah, I wondered what the yellow item was on top of the salad… turmeric-infused meat – nice! I love the spice myself, I have a huge pot at home, I must endeavour to use it more, so thank you for the inspiration.

    Apologies, I missed your previous post but I just went back to read it now. It sounds very painful. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a chronic condition like that so I wish you all the best with it. I hope you’re able to get to a point where you can alleviate the symptoms!
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Charles! I am ok, yes it’s a chronic illness and some days are bad but most days are good and I concentrate on those. It’s hard to control without meds but I do try and get off the meds once in awhile just to be free of chemicals in my body. Thank you for your lovely comment.

      I add turmeric to all my meat dishes so that’s one use for it!

  10. June 25, 2013

    A good salad is so refreshing on a hot day and this one sounds fantastic, Nazneen. Best of all it’s quick and easy to prepare, musts when the temperatures soar. Like, too, that the ingredients are fairly common. I’m much more likely to make a dish if I have almost all of the ingredients on-hand. Thanks for sharing a great recipe.
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks John! Yep, it does make life easier if you have the ingredients on hand. Nice to experiment once in a while though but most people have Asian spices and condiments in their pantries. This was a great salad and easy to put together.

  11. June 25, 2013

    I love these salad recipes that are great on a hot day like today, thanks for sharing!
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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Natalie! It is a very refreshing salad.

  12. June 25, 2013

    Luke Nguyen is so brilliant, I really should stalk his recipes more 😛
    I love this salad, it looks so refreshing!

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    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Uru, yeah, he is quite brilliant!

    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Hi GG! Yeah, he’s not on the main stream food network here but on a side channel and sometimes on public tv. I really like him though. This is a great summer salad, so much flavour.

    • Nazneen
      June 25, 2013

      Me too! He’s great and I love this salad. Definitely great for the hot summer.

    • Nazneen
      July 1, 2013

      Thanks Nilu!

  13. Eha
    June 25, 2013

    This is an absolutely beautiful salad I have made quite a few times. Writing from Australia Luke Nguyen is of course ‘ours’ and quite my favourite chef and author at the moment. In addition to two brilliant Sydney restaurants and his series of food shows, videos and books he is suppoesdly an absolutely inspiring tour leader to his home country of Vietnam and all the neighbouring lands: friends have been and are immediately rebooking . . .

    • Nazneen
      June 25, 2013

      Hi Eha! Of course, Luke Nguyen is Australian! I had forgotten that. I love him, he’s so down to earth and so passionate about his country and his cuisine. I enjoy watching his show when its on and when I remember! Thanks for stopping by!

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