LARB GAI (Thai ground chicken salad, for 4 to 6)
¼ cup Thai or Lao sticky rice or 2 tablespoons roasted rice powder (available at Asian markets)
1 pound coarsely ground or finely chopped white or dark meat chicken (lean beef, such as sirloin, can be substituted)
¼ cup low sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons minced fresh lemon grass, white part only
1 Thai or serrano chile, thinly sliced (use less or remove seeds and membranes for milder spice)
4 teaspoons Asian fish sauce, preferably Thai
5 teaspoons fresh lime juice, more to taste
¼ cup slivered red onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons sliced scallions
10 mint leaves, chopped, plus more whole leaves for serving
endive leaves and cucumber spears for serving
4 cups cooked sticky or jasmine rice for serving (optional)
1. If using raw rice, to make roasted rice powder, heat a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice is roasted and dark brown but not black, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the wok and let cool, then grind to a coarse powder in a mortar, blender or spice/coffee grinder.
2. Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. When it is very hot, add the chicken stock, then add the chicken, stirring constantly to break up any lumps, lemon grass and chile slices. Cook just until chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl.
3. When the chicken is just warm, add the remaining ingredients and the roasted rice powder. Mix gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary. The mixture should be tangy, salty and lightly spicy.
4. Spoon onto a serving plate and surround with mint leaves, lettuce and cucumber. Serve with rice. If serving sticky rice, pinch some off, mold into a small ball and dip into larb, scooping up a little of each ingredient. Or scoop the larb into lettuce leaves.
adapted from Amanda Hesser, The Essential New York Times Cookbook