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.
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.
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 | Laotian Chicken Salad
A refreshing salad with spicy ground chicken, mint and cilantro all tossed in a sweet, spicy and tart dressing.
SPICY GROUND CHICKEN
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
1/2 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)
Add all the ingredients together and check for seasonings.
The dressing should be a nice balance of sweet, tangy and salty.
Adjust the quantities accordingly and to taste.
In a large bowl or platter, arrange the lettuce leaves
Add the cucumbers and green beans
And add the mint, cilantro and green chilli.
Put aside and make the chicken.
SPICY GROUND CHICKEN
In a wok or large fry pan, heat the oil on medium high.
Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
Add the ground chicken and the turmeric if using.
Toss around breaking up the chicken and cook until the pink has gone and the chicken is almost done.
Add the fish sauce and cook until chicken is cooked all the way.
Add the onions or shallots, the green chilli and the lime juice.
Make sure that most of the juices have evaporated and then add the toasted ground rice.
Too much ground rice can make the meat a bit slimy so don't add too much.
The 3 tablespoons are enough to add a toasty flavour and absorb some of the juices.
Taste to check the seasonings.
The meat should be spicy from the green chilli, slightly salty from the fish sauce and tangy from the lime.
Adjust accordingly to taste, add more if needed.
Keep the chicken aside and keep warm.
When ready to serve, toss the salad with a few tablespoons of the dressing.
Keep the chicken on the side and let people top their own salads with the ground chicken.
Keep some extra dressing and lime slices on the side for anyone who wants more.
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
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!