Thai Larb Gai salad
For some reason whenever I feel a little under the weather I crave spicy food and Thai always hits the spot. Refreshing lime, fragrant mint, salty fish sauce and caramel like palm sugar soothe everything. Even hangovers.
This week I was suffering from an annoying cold, and why use Sudafed when you have birds eye chillies? Works every time. So I made this, my take on a classic Thai chicken salad Larb gai. Strictly speaking it must always be chicken if it's to be called Gai but I like pork too, depends on what I have. Also I had some crunchy little breakfast radishes left over from my veg box so I put those in too, which isn't very Thai at all but any crunchy veg works well.
Also this dish makes a fantastic nibble for a party. Just spoon little piles of it into little lettuce cups and its wonderful finger food. Light and low in fat too. During Christmas drinks party season, a lighter alternative is especially welcome amongst all those fried and cheese based nibbles. It also tastes good at room temperature so you don't have to worry about it being piping hot throughout the evening. Also, all the ingredients I used are gluten free and what is often lacking from gluten free nibbles is the crunch of a base like toast or crackers, but the lettuce more than makes up for that.
As a starter for dinner you need serve it with nothing more than a cooling cucumber salad and crunchy leaves, or add a pile of sticky rice to make a main course.
You can make this fresh and vibrant tasting dish with turkey or pork mince, or even leftover cooked chicken chopped up. I've also made it with Quorn mince so my veggie guests are getting something exactly the same as the meat munchers. You can substitute the fish sauce for a splash of rice vinegar and some salt in this instance. I personally think if you are going to do two different dishes to cater for different diets, the least you can do is make them very similar. It makes your guests feel less difficult and left out.
I made this as a generous supper for 2 from two thirds of a standard 500g pack of mince, and I used the rest to make four lovely bowls of this Polpettine with fregola and tender stem broccoli. So it's a real budget pleaser too.
As a final note, I try and stay away from writing recipes that require special equipment as I think it alienates people from trying them if they don't have all the kit. But this really does need one of those ultra sharp slicing things called a mandolin. Unless your chopping skills are ninja-like, you will find it impossible to slice anything as thin as these little devices can. There are many varieties around but in every single pro kitchen and many chef's knife bags you will find one made by a Japanese company called Benriner. They are the most hard wearing ones I’ve come across and super easy to clean. They even come with a finger guard and some extra fancy blades, and can be had for around £15 online.