Thai chicken larb - a delicious salad that consists of flavorful minced chicken as well as fresh herbs and vegetables. Full of Thai flavors, this dish is one of my top favorite Asian dishes. It's tasty, light, healthy and colorful. My version of the salad is simplified to make it super easy to make with the ingredients that are readily available.
Larb is one of my favorite dishes to order at local Thai places when I eat out. That said, larb is so easy to make at home that going out for it almost makes no sense. Another Thai dish that you can quickly make at home is tom yum soup. Have you tried making tom yum soup yet? If not, do it! One of signature Thai dishes, this soup is also a breeze to make at home.
What is larb gai?
Larb gai, or chicken larb, is a dish of chopped chicken, mint, basil, coriander, red chilies and shallots served with lime juice dressing. (The dish is sometimes spelled laab, laap, lahb, larp, lob or lop.) Larb can also be made with beef, pork and seafood.
How to make chicken larb?
Traditionally, chicken larb is made by cooking ground chicken in a hot wok with a couple of tablespoons of water, breaking up lumps, until cooked through. The warm chicken is then mixed with other ingredients, except garnishes, and roasted rice powder. After that, the mixture is spooned onto a serving plate and surrounded with mint, lettuce and cucumbers, and served with rice.
In this recipe, however, I omitted the roasted rice powder as it adds a considerable amount of time to the recipe and added crispy shallots. The shallots add a ton of flavor and take only a few minutes to make. I also prefer cooking minced chicken with a little bit of olive oil instead of water for more flavor.
How to make roasted rice powder?
If you insist on adding it, you can buy roasted rice powder it or make your own. It's always best to make your own as roasted rice loses its flavor after a couple of weeks. To make roasted rice powder, roast 5 ounces of long-grain Thai or Lao sticky rice in a pan until golden brown, about 15 minutes, then grind in a mortar or a food processor.
How to serve this dish?
- Larb gai is traditionally served with long-grain Thai or Lao sticky rice.
- My preferred way to serve chicken larb is as a salad, along with shredded romaine lettuce, carrots, red onions or shallots, and scallions. You can also add sliced cucumbers.
- Instead of shredding lettuce, you can use whole leaves to make chicken larb wraps.
Tips for making chicken larb
- Thai chili peppers, also called bird's eye chili peppers, are very hot. To temper their heat down, cut them in half and remove membranes and seeds before slicing. This will result in mild heat.
- If you cannot find Thai chiles, you can use a tiny bit of Thai chili powder, or fresh serrano or jalapeno peppers.
- If you don't like spicy food, you can easily omit chilies. The salad will taste just as good without them.
- You can substitute ground chicken for ground pork, beef, duck or turkey.
- You can even use leftover roast chicken or beef. Just chop it up and warm up in a skillet with a little bit of oil.
- Instead of minced chicken, try chopped 10-minute pan-fried chicken breast or my broiled chicken breast. Both are delicious and are quick to prepare.
- Traditionally, this dish uses Chinese cabbage and Thai basil which can be hard to find sometimes, depending on the time of year or where you live. Personally, I use romaine lettuce and regular basil with great success. I actually prefer romaine lettuce to Chinese cabbage.
- The essence of this salad is the variety of herbs. Don't omit them! The combination of mint, cilantro and basil make this dish rock.
For the chicken
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (ground or chopped with a large knife; you can also use store-bought minced chicken)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (for frying; one for chicken and one for shallots)
For the salad
- 1 cup mint leaves (thinly sliced)
- 1 carrot (medium, peeled and shredded)
- 12 cups romaine lettuce (or Chinese cabbage; cut into thin strips)
- 1/2 cup basil leaves (or Thai basil; thinly sliced)
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (thinly sliced)
For the dressing
- 6 Tbsp lime juice (freshly squeezed)
- 4 Tbsp fish sauce
- 4 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 4 Thai chilies (stemmed and sliced on the diagonal; membrane and seeds removed for mild heat)
For the Garnish
- 2 shallots (large; thinly sliced)
- 4 Tbsp green onions (thinly sliced)
- 12 sprigs cilantro leaves
- 6 mint leaves
- 1 Tbsp roasted unsalted peanuts (optional; coarsely chopped)
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a fork. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and saute until cooked through, stirring frequently and breaking up lumps, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to two serving plates, splitting equally.
- In the same skillet, fry 2/3 of the thinly sliced shallots over medium-high heat. You may need to add a little bit of oil to the skillet if needed. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Combine the remaining (uncooked) sliced shallots, lettuce, carrot, mint, cilantro and basil in a bowl and gently toss to mix well, adding the dressing a little at a time.
- Transfer the salad to the serving plates. Sprinkle the peanuts on top if desired. Garnish with fresh cilantro and mint leaves, green onion and crispy fried shallots and serve.