THAI LARB CHICKEN SALAD

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Last September, a small publishing house reached out to me wondering whether I’d be interested in creating a book about hearty, substantial salads. The easiest answer, of course, was yes. Because I love produce almost to the point of obsession, and so much of what I eat on a daily basis can be classified, loosely, as salad. But the timing wasn’t right with that book, and ultimately it was decided not to proceed.

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I am glad for that. I wasn’t ready, then, to take on the monumental work of writing and photographing a book, though I did enjoy indulging endless brainstorms around creative salads. But also, there are people who were ready, and who were already at it. There is a small cluster of new salad books on the market, and among them Salad for Dinner is a standout. It’s a gorgeously produced book of classic and inventive salads, all standing up to the weight of being a meal’s worth of food.

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And larb, that unfortunately named but delicious dish of northern Thailand and Laos, has been on my to-make list for ages, ever since I read about it on Orangette. Author Jeanne Kelley smartly says of the dish, “Larb is a dumpy name for a sexy salad.” And she’s right. This salad is a riot of wonderful, bright flavors: the mint and the basil, the fish sauce, the fresh lime, the lemongrass, the spicy chile and chili paste, the green onions. All the hallmarks of Thai flavors that make it so easy to be enamored with the cuisine. Even though it’s a rainy day here in San Francisco, I’ve got my sights on spring, on longer evenings and outdoor dining, and this salad is a nod in that direction.

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Hooray! The Year in Food is a finalist in Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards. If you feel like casting a vote my way, I’d be incredibly grateful!

THAI LARB CHICKEN SALAD
Adapted from Salad for Dinner
Yield: 4 servings

Note: Vegetarians can easily substitute tofu for the chicken. The fish sauce can be substituted with soy sauce, though some flavor will be lost.

For the salad:

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, diced
3/4 cup coarsely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced, fresh lemongrass
3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
1 small Thai green chile, seeded and sliced
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 red bell pepper, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup cucumber slices
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Bibb or green leaf lettuce leaves for serving

For the dressing:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce or 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (can substitute Sriracha in a pinch)

First, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce and chili garlic sauce. Set aside until ready for use.

Combine the chicken, shallots, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, chile and fish sauce in a food processor. Pulse until coarse.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Add the chicken mixture and fry, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the bell pepper, cucumber, mint, basil and green onions.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on four plates. Divide the red pepper mixture evenly amongst the plates. Top with the chicken mixture.

Serve the dressing on the side.

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by Kimberley

show hide 16 comments

Caitlin - April 10, 2012 - 12:26 pm

I positively love larb and it is a standard for me when I pick up Thai, so I love the prospect of having a version to make at home. Your’s looks perfect, of course!

Brian @ A Thought For Food - April 10, 2012 - 1:05 pm

Well, this is the first time I’m hearing about larb. What a word! This looks magnificent and the perfect spring night dinner.

And, congrats again… I’m so proud!

Lynn - April 10, 2012 - 1:30 pm

Larb is one of my all time favorite things to make and eat. We often have it with a side of Thai sticky rice – so good!!

Sharyn Dimmick - April 10, 2012 - 2:59 pm

Nice to see a recipe for this — I’ll save it until the basil and cukes come in.

SG - April 10, 2012 - 3:08 pm

lady this is one of my most favorites. i always want a larb party in my mouth!

Yadsia @ShopCookMake - April 10, 2012 - 5:52 pm

interesting recipe, I didn’t know what larb was. Looks delicious

Brianne - April 10, 2012 - 5:58 pm

The word larb definitely makes me chuckle, but the recipe has me drooling. I love Thai flavors, so I must try this.

Stacy - April 10, 2012 - 7:16 pm

I like your attitude re: the cookbook situation and, as usual, your thoughts on salad. And yes: larb is a silly word indeed. Looking forward to trying this with tofu!

kale @ tastes good to me! - April 10, 2012 - 9:17 pm

I’m drawn in by that dressing! Gorgeous with just the rick amount of kick!

Cookie and Kate - April 11, 2012 - 8:02 am

For what it’s worth, I can’t think of a photographer better suited for a salad book. I’ve never heard of larb before but I adore Thai flavors!

kickpleat - April 12, 2012 - 12:17 pm

Ha, I love that it’s a “dumpy name for a sexy salad”. I’ve never had a larb, but it sounds delicious with all of those strong flavours minglin’ around.

sarah - April 12, 2012 - 7:04 pm

Beautiful photos! I hadn’t heard of larb, either, and I love that quote about it. I imagine my 4 year old giggling, telling her we are having ‘larb’ for dinner.

And, what good insight, knowing when to say no, even to something really good. Here’s to more good things, just around the corner. :)

Anu - April 17, 2012 - 10:15 am

Hi,

I recently came across your blog and am absolutely smitten..! Your photographs are gorgeous, and your recipes very inspiring…not to mention, your writing and the way you view things; life, as a whole..

Was just wondering; if you don’t mind sharing, where you might have obtained the beautiful rimmed plates you’ve featured in this post..? I believe I saw it on the beet eggs post as well..I’ve been on the hunt for something similar but with not much luck.

Any input you can offer would be most appreciated.

Thank you and keep up the great work!

Cheers

Kimberley - April 24, 2012 - 7:44 pm

Hi Anu. Thank you. :) The plates are from CB2. Don’t mind sharing at all!

Mara - June 9, 2013 - 10:41 pm

Wow. That was an awesome salad. The dressing is what killed it. First attempt produced a restaurant worthy dish. I only modified slightly by adding toasted cashews, palm sugar in place of brown sugar, and cilantro. Nice.

Dry Rub For Rotisserie Chicken - April 10, 2012 - 5:12 pm

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