- Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad
As promised on the last post, here’s my other favorite Laab Gai, Spicy Thai Chicken Salad. This is also easy to make, especially if you already have the same sauce from the eggplant dish on hand, and/or toasted rice powder in a small jar. I recommend just toast about 1/2 C of rice, so that it will last for a few times. I can guarantee this will become another of your favorite, you won’t regret it.
The first time I had it was over 15 years ago in New York at this Thai restaurant where we used to host a new graduate welcome lunch for our graduate school Thunderbird. We didn’t order it, but the friendly owner wanted us to try it. We all loved it. Every time I have this dish, I think of these friends and good old days (and some other crazy stuff from the life in New York.)
The problem was, because we didn’t order it, I didn’t know how it was actually called. I’m sure I asked the owner how its called (so that I can order again), but a Japanese girl trying to decipher Thai dish name is not the easiest. After I moved from New York to California, I was looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found. This is a Northeastern Thailand specialty, so if the owner or chef is not from that area, they normally don’t put it on the menu.
As for any other my food quest, I finally found it! at a Thai restaurant on someone’s table. I asked the name, and the rest is the history. I even got the recipe, so I can easily cook it at home.
This is traditionally made with chicken, but you can also make it with other meat or seafood.
This recipe is adopted from the recipe I cut out from San Francisco Chronicle years ago. My version will allow you to use the sauce made in advance.
Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai)
Ingredients – serves 3 – 4:
- Ground chicken 1/2 lbs or chicken pulsed in food processor until coarsely chopped
- White rice 2 TBS
- Garlic 1 ts, grated (optional)
- Red onion or shallots 1/4 C, thinly sliced
- Lemon grass 1 TBS, minced
- Lime zest, grated (optional)
- Onion, thinly sliced, 1/2 C
- Green or red chili 1-2, seed removed, and thinly sliced, or red pepper flakes
- Sugar 1 -2 ts
- Fish Sauce 1 1/2 TBS
- Lime juice 2 TBS
- Water or lime juice 1 TBS
- Cabbage (white, red or napa) julienned
- Cilantro 2-3 TBS chopped
- Mint leaves
- Dissolve the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice. Taste and if you like it a little milder, add water. if you like it more sour, add lime juice.
- Toast rice in a small skillet until golden. Make sure to shake it consistently for even toasting. Grind it in spice mill until coarsely grinded. (I make extra and save in a small jar for the next time)
- Heat 1TBS vegetable oil in skillet on medium heat. Cook chili until fragrant for a few seconds. Add chicken and a little fish sauce and cook, while breaking up the chicken lumps.
- Turn heat off, mix in onion, lime zest, lemon grass, 1 and 2, and herbs. Let it sit for about 15-20 min to allow flavor to blend. Serve on the bed of julienned cabbage.
Just like the Thai eggplant salad, I LOVE the flavor fireworks in my mouth — balance of sweet, sour and spicy.
As in my past post (click here if you missed it), fish sauce adds depth and flavor to many dishes, both Asian and non-Asian. Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for San Francisco Chronicle article how celebrity chefs are using fish sauce to add umami to their dishes, and recipes. So, if you don’t have one, get a bottle, and use it often as your favorite flavor booster. They are available at Asian market (best selection and price) or large supermarket’s international section.