SPICY MINCED CHICKEN SALAD
Laab Gai - (ลาบไก่)
Recipe courtesy of Thai Food by David Thompson

Ingredients:
150 g (5 oz) skinless chicken breast or thigh fillets
50-100 g (2-4 oz) chicken offal, such as liver, heart and giblets - optional
pinch of salt
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped - optional
3 tbs stock
extra pinch of salt
pinch of white sugar
3 tbs lime juice
large pinch of roasted chilli powder
1 tbs fish sauce
3 red shallots, sliced
handful of mixed mint and coriander leaves
1 tbs shredded pak chii farang (long-leaf coriander)
1 tbs ground roasted rice

Laab is an ancient salad. The merchants of this part of Asia, the Haw, may have helped to spread this dish from the south-west of China and now, throughout northern Thailand, there are adaptations of this style of salad - laab, nahm dtok and sup.

Originally from the north-east, this basic, simple style of Laab is now deservedly popular throughout Thailand.

Method:
Mince the chicken with the salt and garlic, if using. If using offal, wash in salted and acidulated water to clean and remove and coarseness, then finely slice.

Heat stock and season with salt and sugar. Add the mince and offal, if using, and simmer, stirring often, until just cooked (about 3-4 minutes); do not overcook or the meat will toughen. Season with lime juice, roasted chilli powder and fish sauce. Mix in shallots and herbs. Check the seasoning - the salad should taste hot, sour and salty - and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Sprinkle with roasted rice.

Serve with a plate of raw vegetables such as cabbage, snake beans and cucumber.

A word on mincing or grinding.

Mincing or grinding of meat or fish is achieved using a very sharp, heavy knife or even a cleaver. When these ingredients are minced in a machine, they are torn, squashed and heated as they are forced through the grate of a mincer - most probably some good time before they are bought. Mince made like this will probably have been oxidised by its exposure to the air, and therefore will taste flat and fatty. Hand-chopped mince is almost fluffy in comparison, and it tastes more defined. Mostly pork, chicken, prawns or fish are minced and they should be chopped quickly with the knife or cleaver until well minced. A sprinkle of salt while doing so will sweeten the meat or fish as it cooks.