Larb: The Laotian Take on a Lettuce Wrap
Laos is an interesting place. For one, I dare you to find it on a map--no googling! It's also a socialist state, has a nationwide curfew of midnight, is home to a supposedly magical lake, and has been bombed more than any other country in the world. (Wikipedia really is a gem).
Knowing all this, I think it's safe to say that Laotians are a sturdy bunch who beat to the rhythm of their own drum. Perhaps thats why the food from this tiny country manages to hold its own against its heavy-hitter neighbors China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand, who's culinary traditions are well-known around the world.
For proof of this culinary veracity, look no further than Larb. This dish expertly draws on flavor profiles and techniques from those good old neighbors in Thailand and Vietnam, shining with bright, hot, sweet, and sour flavors lent from the ubiquitous southeast asian ingredients lime, chili, and fish sauce.
You're gonna larb it.
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Srirarcha sauce
2 lbs ground chicken (dark meat if you can)
3-4 tablespoons light oil like avocado
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken stock
1-2 Jalapeño chilis, sliced thin
8 scallions, sliced thin
1 cup cilantro roughly chopped
8 small Iceberg Lettuce or Boston Bibb Lettuce Leaves
Dressing: Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
Chicken: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium to medium high heat. Once hot, add in the light oil and wait one minute. Add the shallots and salt cook one minute. Add the chicken and break up into small pieces with a spoon.
Once the chicken is in pieces, stop stirring it so that it has a chance to caramelize. This will take 10-15 minutes. Just be careful it doesn't burn.
Once the chicken has browned some, deglaze the pan with the chicken stock. Reduce it until almost no liquid remains. At this stage, add in the jalapeños, scallions and cilantro and cook for 1 minute more. (reserve a little scallion and cilantro for garnish).
Pour over dressing and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add scallion and cilantro to garnish.
Serve atop lettuce wraps.