Laab Gai is a traditional Thai minced chicken salad with fresh herbs. Thai cooks depend on the tropical herb phak phai (aka Vietnamese coriander or Persicaria odorata), but this recipe relies on a combination of Thai basil, cilantro, and mint. Culantro is another herb that fits perfectly in this recipe. The sharp tasting herbs balance the saltiness of fish sauce, spicy chiles, a sour tang from lime juice, and the savoury nuttiness of toasted rice. In short, this is an amazingly refreshing dish that is packed full of flavours and versatile enough to make use of nearly any seasonal fresh herbs. The chicken can be substituted with tofu for a vegetarian version, and the fish sauce with salt. But it can also be substituted with minced pork, duck, or fish.
1 lb chicken (breast, thigh, or a combination of both)
30mL (2 Tbsp) Thai sticky rice (or substitute jasmine rice or basmati)
60mL (¼ cup) shallots, finely chopped
60mL (¼ cup) fresh herbs, chopped (see head note)
2 dried Thai bird chiles, minced
45mL (3 Tbsp) lime juice
15mL (1 Tbsp) fish sauce
5mL (1 tsp) sugar
(¼ tsp) freshly ground black pepper
3 – 4 Belgian endive, separated into leaves (or substitute butter lettuce leaves)
Over medium heat, toast the rice in a skillet, keeping it moving, until it is rich golden brown. Grind this in a mortar and pestle, or in a clean coffee grinder — aim for some fine and some larger particles. Cover the chicken meat in water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Drain, allow to cool, and then mince into a fine texture.
Combine the minced chicken, shallots, herbs, chiles, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and black pepper, in a large mixing bowl. Cover and allow the flavours to combine for at least one hour in the refrigerator. Before serving, add the toasted rice powder and stir thoroughly.
Serve with fresh Belgian endive leaves as spoons, or use butter lettuce as lettuce wraps.