3 Jul 2014

larb gai

I just came back from a short holiday at my grandma's and I think I came back with a new found appreciation for the tropics. One of my main aims for travelling this time round was just to eat (chee cheong fun - steamed rice rolls) and learn some dishes from my grandma; which I am happy to report that I did. Something I miss was the availability of food in such close proximity. I'd often wake up and be taken to have noodles for breakfast. Some days I'd have roasted meat rice, yumcha or walk down to my favourite mamak store for roti telur (roti canai with egg) and teh ais (iced milk tea). Coming back, the food choices available aren't as interesting. Though I guess it gives me a good reason to go again in the future.

Speaking of larb gai, it wasn't something I learnt from my grandma nor did I eat it when I was in KL. Instead, it came from deciding what to do with the chicken mince! I remember eating something similar in a Thai restaurant a while ago and so I began to do a little research in attempt to recreate it. Sweet, savoury, sour and spicy, it tastes great by itself, with some freshly steamed rice or bun (thin rice noodles).

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larb gai (Thai minced chicken salad)     serves 4+ as part of a shared meal
adapted from Thai Food and Cooking by Judy Bastyra & Becky Johnson and Tiny Urban Kitchen

2 lemongrass roots (white bit), sliced thinly and finely processed
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
500g chicken mince
cooking oil, as required
sea salt, as required
fish sauce (Squid brand), as required
white pepper, as required
chicken stock powder, as required

nuoc mam pha*, as required
Thai sweet chilli sauce (Pantai brand) or chilli sauce, as required

To serve
toasted rice powder (khao khua)**, as required
1 bunch coriander, roots trimmed
1 bunch Thai basil/mint, leaves plucked
1 baby cos lettuce, leaves trimmed
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Heat up a wok and add some cooking oil. On low heat, sauté lemongrass, garlic and shallots until fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl. Turn up the heat and add some more cooking oil to cook the chicken mince, allow the bottom to brown before breaking it into small pieces, stirring in the process. When chicken is nearly done, add the lemongrass mix and stir thoroughly. As the meat juice begins to evaporate, season well with salt, fish sauce, white pepper and chicken stock powder. Stir fry until meat juice completely evaporates. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

For the sauce, combine nuoc mam pha and Thai sweet chilli sauce to your liking.

To serve, take out a portion of the mince and mix in 1 heaped teaspoon of toasted rice powder and some coriander and Thai basil/mint. Add a few tablespoons sauce and stir to combine, adding more sauce if necessary. Transfer onto a baby cos lettuce and squeeze lime wedge before eating.

*My dad makes his own dipping fish sauce which is made of combining fish sauce, white vinegar, sugar, water and smashed garlic cloves. Once you are happy with the taste, bring to the boil and allow to cool before storing in an airtight jug. Store in the fridge.

**Heat a wok. Turn the heat to low and add a rice cup full of glutinous rice. Gently stir fry until golden brown and fragrant – this may take around ten minutes. Allow to cool before processing it to a fine powder. For further information, see here.

Edit: 10/07/14 I'm submitting this post to Cook Your Books #14 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.