Thai Larb Gai
- First you need a non stick wok or frying pan. Place it on a medium heat and allow it to get all toasty warm. Add the rice to the pan and keep shaking/stirring. Don't leave it, this is a stay put job. After a few minutes the rice will crackle a little and take on a tanned colour, a bit like a rice crispies! When it is done, remove from the pan and grind the rice to a powder in a pestle and mortar, or an old bowl and a rolling pin. I use an old coffee grinder. It works well. Keep this to one side for sprinkling on the salad at the end. It adds a fabulous and authentic Thai roasty toasty flavour.
- Now grab a large bowl, a salad bowl would be perfect. Put the fish sauce in the bowl and now you need to crush up the palm sugar. You can chop it finely, or smush it in a pestle and mortar. When you have done that add it to the fish sauce and stir well - it will start to dissolve in the salty sauce.
- Next, you need a mandolin slicer. I normally try and stay away from recipes that require special equipment but this is an exception as it really does improve the end result. You could grate the ingredients but it would wind up mushy and wet. You could also try and slice it thin enough, but unless your knife skills are ninja like it would be really hard. So, prepare your mandolin. They are basically razor blades mounted on a stand with an adjustable thickness gauge. Always use the finger guard. For a simple reason why just take a look at this video of Rick Stein on you tube, they even showed this to us in catering college. Don't panic, it's not gory! And it will make you chuckle.
- Now wash and peel the carrots, garlic, then peel the onion. Leaving the root intact a bit helps during the slicing. Wash and take the little green tufty bit off the radishes.
- Position your mandolin over the bowl. Twiddle the little wheel underneath that sets the thickness; you need it really fine. Wafer. About the thickness of a playing card. I test mine with a swipe or two of the onion. See how they come out. When you are happy with it slice the onion, the carrots lengthways and the radishes all into the bowl. Don't mix it up yet.
- Chop the chillies and garlic really fine and keep to one side. Finely shred mint leaves and add those to the bowl with the veggies and fresh mint.
- Now crank the heat on that non stick pan up to max, get it nice and hot before adding the oil. Now it's mince time. Take your mince (which incidentally is approx two thirds of a standard 500g pack and the final third can be reserved for another recipe like my polpettine with fregola and tender-stem broccoli) and crumble it into the hot pan. You need to break it up with your fingers as you scatter it in.
- Resist the urge to stir the pan straight away and allow the meat to gain a little colour and crispy before stirring it all up. Now add in the chillies and garlic and mix well. The whole lot shouldn't take more than three or four minutes cooking if the heat is nice and high. This is fast and tasty grub!
- Then add the hot mince into the bowl with everything else and use tongs to mix it up. Leave to stand for 2-3 minutes to let the dressing get happy with the hot meat. Taste and add more fish sauce or sugar for your liking. Serve by placing a tablespoon or two of the mix into the cupped leaves of the little gem and scattering over the toasted rice.
- Use your fingers. Eat the lettuce wraps in one or two bits and enjoy the flavour bomb.
- You could make this veggie by using Quorn mince.
- Play around adding different vegetables, anything crunchy works.
- Makes wonderful finger food for your next drinks and nibbles bash, cold beer is its natural pairing.
- To make this a more substantial main course, serve with bowls of sticky rice.