Larb or laab is a salad found on the menu of every Thai restaurant. It’s not a vegetable salad with meat in it… but a delicious meat salad bursting with flavor from lime juice, fish sauce and chilies, and herbs. Larb is generally made with ground chicken, pork or duck.
Instead of using ground chicken, I’m taking fresh lime and nam pla (fish sauce) marinated chicken thighs out to the grill to get a little smoke and char mixed into this salad. After all, Thai food is about layers and layers of flavor. From the grill the chicken gets chopped up and tossed with some quick pickled shallots, scallions, lemongrass, Thai chilies, and plenty of cilantro and fresh mint. If you are a cilantro hater (you know who you are), simply leave it out or substitute with some Thai basil or regular basil.
I have used chicken thighs for a couple reasons. The primary one being F-L-A-V-O-R. Chicken thighs just have more flavor than white meat, plus they don’t dry out. The other reason is that this is street food – not too many street vendors can afford expensive chicken breast. But really it just tastes better.
If you watch many cooking shows, you know that crispy chicken skin is the new bacon. I am chopping up that crisp smoky skin with it’s flecks of char right along with the meat and into the salad. This one is up to you and if your skin turns a little more black than flecks of char, you may want to opt out.
Scoop big spoonfuls of room temperature larb onto lettuce leaves with a little sambal or sriracha and eat it like a taco. Serve with some steamed white rice (preferably sticky rice).
- ½ cup thinly sliced shallots, about 2 medium
- ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅔ cup fresh lime juice
- ⅓ cup fish sauce (nam pla) - I use Red Boat
- 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek chili paste or sriracha, plus more for serving
- 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
- 2-4 Thai bird chilies or 1-2 Serrano, thinly sliced; divided use
- 1 cup chopped cilantro, divided use
- ¼ neutral oil
- Kosher salt and pepper for grilling chicken
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 stalk lemon grass, soft white part only, minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ½ cup chopped mint
- Bibb lettuce or iceberg leaves, for serving
- In a small non-reactive bowl, combine the shallots, vinegar and salt. Store in refrigerator, occasionally remixing, until ready to serve.In a medium mixing bowl, combine the lime juice fish sauce, brown sugar and chili sauce; stir until sugar is dissolved. Measure out ½ cup and set aside. Add ½ cup chopped cilantro, 1 sliced chili and then whisk in the oil. Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for a couple hours to as long as overnight.
- Set up the grill for two zone (both direct and indirect) grilling; medium-high heat on the direct side. Brush and oil the grates before you start cooking.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Lay the chicken skin-side down and give a good 3 to 4 minute sear to mark the chicken and give it a little char. Flip and move to the indirect side. Close the grill cover and stabilize the temperature around 350°F. Cook for 35 to 45 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink at the bone.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Pull or cut the chicken from the bone and finely chop - with or without the crispy skin, your choice.
- Add the chopped chicken to a mixing bowl. Drain the shallots and add to the bowl, along with the remaining cilantro and chile. Add the scallions, lemongrass, garlic, and mint. Pour over the reserved dressing and and toss.
- Serve spooned into lettuce cups and a little sambal or sriracha.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!