Thai Lettuce Wraps (Larb Chicken in Bibb Lettuce Cups with Chili Cucumbers and Jasmine Rice)
Adapted from the recipe by Chef Robert Lewis, Maxine’s Fireweed Bistro
• 1 cup Thai jasmine rice
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1 tsp salt
Nam-Jin Sauce (makes 1/2 cup)
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• 2 Tbs sugar
• 2 Tbs fish sauce
• 2 packed Tbs fresh mint leaves
• 1/2 packed cup fresh cilantro, including stems
• 1 Tbs sambal oelek (ground red chiles)
• 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
• 2-4 Tbs fish sauce
• 1 cup peeled and diced cucumber, 1/4” dice
• 2 Tbs sambal oelek
• 1 head Bibb or Romaine lettuce (preferably Bibb)
• 1 Tbs peanut oil
• 1 lb ground chicken
• 1/2 cup diced red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, 1/4” dice
• 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/4” dice
• 1/2 cup nam-jin sauce
• 2 tsp soy sauce
• 1/4 tsp Madras curry powder
• 2 Tbs fresh Thai basil chiffonade (see NOTE below)
• 2 Tbs chopped peanuts
• 2 cups steamed jasmine rice
Salty, sweet, spicy and sour, nam-jin is a classic Thai sauce. Chef Robert Lewis uses his easy-to-make version to season ground chicken filling for lettuce wraps. The recipe below makes just enough nam-jin to include in the Chicken Larb. Double the delicious nam-jin recipe if you’d like extra to use as a condiment or dipping sauce. Chili cucumbers served on the side add fresh, spicy and salty notes, while fragrant jasmine rice balances the zesty chicken and sauces. Chef Lewis uses 4 tablespoons fish sauce in Chili Cucumbers; some of our tasters felt that was too salty. Taste and decide for yourself. While the rice is cooking, make the rest of the recipe, which goes together quite quickly. Fish sauce, sambal oelek, rice vinegar, Madras curry powder and Thai basil are available in most large supermarkets and Asian stores. If you can’t find Thai basil, substitute sweet basil or mint.
Make Jasmine Rice: Put rice in strainer and rinse several times until water runs clear; this removes extra starch and prevents rice from turning mushy. Put rice in small pan with water and salt. Cook over medium high heat just until water boils, cover, and turn heat down as low as possible. Cook for 15 minutes, until rice absorbs all the water. Turn off heat and let rice sit, covered, until ready to serve.
Make Nam-Jin Sauce: Put all ingredients in blender and puree until sauce is smooth.
Make Chili Cucumbers: Mix all ingredients together, using only 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Taste and add remaining fish sauce, as needed. Put Chili Cucumbers in small serving bowl.
Prepare Wraps: Separate lettuce into individual leaves. Wash and dry well in salad spinner or kitchen towels. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make Chicken Larb: Put peanut oil in large skillet and heat until it is very hot, but not smoking. Spread ground chicken over bottom of skillet and sear, without stirring, until it is well browned on one side. Turn over, breaking chicken up into small pieces. Add bell pepper and onions and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in 6 Tbsp. nam-jin sauce, using the liquid to scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Taste and add remaining nam-jin sauce, as needed. Add soy sauce and Madras curry powder and cook, stirring from time to time, until barely any liquid remains. Remove from heat.
Assemble: Divide Chicken Larb between 4 plates. Garnish with chiffonade of Thai basil and chopped peanuts. Place 3 Bibb lettuce leaves and 1/2 cup rice on each plate. Serve immediately.
NOTE: To chiffonade basil, make stack of basil leaves, roll them into cylinder, and slice into thin shreds with a sharp knife.
Eat: Spoon Chicken Larb and rice onto a lettuce leaf, add Chili Cucumbers or extra nam-jin sauce to taste, roll lettuce leaf up to enclose filling, and eat. Rice may also be eaten on the side instead of in the roll and Chili Cucumbers and extra nam-jin may also be used as dipping sauces.