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Asian dish screams with intense flavor

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The first time I ever even heard about Larb, I was skimming through channels on television and saw a woman from Laos preparing this dish over an open fire.

I couldn't stop staring. It not only looked delicious, but also simplicity was written all over it.

By the time she finished cooking it, I had my keys in hand ready to drive myself to the market for all the ingredients. I have a keen ability to recognize greatness when I see it.

Aside from the name of this dish, all the ingredients scream intense flavor. A minced meat salad of sorts, Larb is the national dish of Laos. It is perfectly versatile, as it can be made with any meat. I have even used pork. And because the meat is minced, cooking time is reduced to minutes. Using a food processor to chop the meat even further eliminates the time necessary to enjoy a flavor packed hot meal.

I was so smitten at one point that I basically fell down a larb rabbit hole so deep, every time I saw a vegetable, spice or meat I wondered how it would taste if I combined the traditional ingredients of this Asian dish with practically any new and unusual flavor I came across. I finally climbed out of that hole and moved on to other foods.

Recently, however, I revisited this discovery and have to say I fell just a little bit all over again.

LARB

11/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots

1 small red Thai chile, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil, divided

Cilantro -- tender leaves and stems

1 sprig of mint leaves (leave some for garnish)

2 cups rice prepared according to package

Combine first nine ingredients in a food processor. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. oil over and pulse until chicken is very finely chopped. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken mixture and sauté, breaking up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, until chicken is starting to turn golden brown and is cooked through, about 6 minutes.

The Dressing:

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

Serve over rice.

Janet McCormick is the author of "10-Minute Meals" and owner of Let's Eat in Huntington. She lives in Lawrence County, Ohio. She can be reached at 304-654-2003 or www.10-minutemeals.com.

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