This dish, also known as Larb in Laos and Thailand, is often served over lettuce, cabbage, or vegetables, with steamed sticky rice. I've most often seen it served with lettuce cups for an Asian take on tacos - in fact this is one of my favourite dishes at PF Changs.
I've wanted to try to make Larb for years but never have. Then I came upon this recipe from the folks at Fine Cooking and decided to give it a shot. I was surprised at how easy this was to pull together (I used minced lemon grass that you get in a tube, not wanting the trouble of chopping one up myself). It turned out amazing - the perfect blend of Thai flavours bouncing around in your mouth. Having had this I won't be ordering the PF Changs version again!
Oh yes, this has about 150 calories per serving - it just gets better and better!
Thai-Style Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Cups
3 Tbs. uncooked jasmine rice
3 Tbs. fish sauce
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, outer layers removed, and inner core minced (1 Tbs.)
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. packed light brown sugar
1-1/4 lb. ground chicken, preferably dark meat
1 medium shallot, minced (1/3 cup)
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh mint
1 medium head butter lettuce, for serving
Toast the rice in an 8-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes (the rice will begin to smoke after a couple of minutes). Let the rice cool slightly and then grind in a spice grinder until the largest pieces resemble very coarse cornmeal; the mixture should not be completely powdery.
Combine the fish sauce, lemongrass, pepper flakes, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and bring to a simmer over high heat. Separate the chicken into large clumps and add to the pan. Cook, breaking up the chicken into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, 5 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the ground rice over the chicken and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid in the pan has thickened, about 2 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the shallot. Sprinkle with the lime juice, scallions, cilantro, and mint and stir gently to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the remaining ground rice. Serve with the lettuce leaves on the side to use as cups for the chicken.