Larb Gai

11:30 am on 11 October 2010

This dish instantly transports me to Thailand. I've travelled through Asia many times and this would have to be one of the standout dishes for me. It’s simple, delicious and really sums up Thai cuisine nicely. I first sampled larb on the beach in southern Thailand. It was a hot day and I wanted something with a bit of zing that was fresh and clean tasting — I was so surprised at just how much taste was packed into such a small plate. I decided to try to learn the dish from a local, and did. The trickiest part is toasting the rice to give a lovely crunch.

(Serves 4)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp long-grain rice
  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, finely chopped
  • 3 chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and finely chopped by hand
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • 2½ dried red chillies, ground
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup roughly chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and finely sliced for serving
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced lengthwise

Method

Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Add the rice and toast until golden, tossing to brown the grains evenly. Cool, then grind the rice to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Place the chicken breasts and thighs in a saucepan and just cover with water. Put the pan over a low heat and gently bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until the chicken is just cooked, then add the lime leaves, dried chilli, lemon and lime juice, shallots, red onion and fish sauce. Stir through the mint and coriander leaves and ground rice.

Arrange the cucumber slices in the bottom of a serving bowl, top with the larb and sprinkle with sliced fresh chilli.

Suggested wines to complement this recipe

Cold lager. The colder, the better.

Or maybe the 2009 Amisfield Dry Riesling - Central Otago. It's not austere. It's not floral. It's all about limes and flint and stone. It's not a strong wine but has plenty of taste. Contradiction - yes, but a great wine! $30

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