THAI TURKEY LARB RECIPE (ลาบไก่งวง)

The Sour and Spicy Neighbor That’s So Close, Yet So Far…

For the same reason that one can live next to a neighbor for years and not visit their home, I have not been to Thailand. I know, I’m not proud of it, but faraway places beckoned, and I just never got around to doing it. I always thought that Thailand was close enough to home that I could go anytime. It’s so ironic that I am now based in the U.S., Thailand isn’t as easy as a 2 hour flight anymore. If I wanted to go, I would actually have to plan a major trip there.

Saying that, I have eaten some amazing larb dishes made by Thai chefs in Malaysia. Being a neighboring country, Malaysia is home to some local ethnic Thais, as well as migrants who have food businesses in the capital of Kuala Lumpur. However, did you know that larb is actually of Laotian origin? This dish is most common in the Issan region of Thailand, where a big community of ethnic Laotians live.

It is All About the Meat

The best larb dish I’ve had is one that featured pork innards. It was a super spicy plate of chewy offals, graced with flavor so exciting that my friends and I reordered two more plates of the same. For practicality and health reasons though, I make larb with more readily available proteins that are cleaner and organic here in the U.S. I also don’t add MSG, or bomb the dish out with too much seasoning. I’m pretty health conscious, and so this one is a slightly less-exciting, and cleaner alternative that I can eat more often.

Also, taste will largely differ depending on the ingredients you use. Bland meats will yield a blander experience. More flavorful meats that are organic, pasture-raised, and thoughtfully produced will taste more complex. It really is all about the meat with this dish! The brand of fish sauce, and chilly powder you use will also be a factor.*

I usually err on the cleaner side for health reasons. Some of the hook, complexity and flavor notes that make genuine SE Asian foodies go crazy may be lost as a result of scaling back on the tastier, but less healthy stuff. Nonetheless, this is a delightfully healthy dish to make on a weeknight when you’re time-strapped and in need of a healthy meal. Enjoy!

Thai Turkey Larb Recipe

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of ground turkey (I use organic)
  • 1 tablespoon roasted rice powder
  • 1 tablespoon of medium-heat red chilly flakes (without seeds)**
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 small bird eye chilly (optional, use 3 if you like it intense)
  • 1 1/2 limes, juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 stalks of green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of mint leaves, chopped or whole
  • 1/2 cup of culantro (or cilantro), chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat nonstick wok to medium high. When hot, add your ground meat.
  2. Cook your ground meat until all the pinkness is gone (about 5-6 mins).
  3. Add roasted rice powder, mix thoroughly.
  4. Add chilly powder, mix thoroughly.
  5. Add fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar to taste. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Turn the heat OFF and add sliced shallots and extra fresh chillies, mix thoroughly.
  7. Remove to cool until it is just warm to the touch. Then, add your chopped herbs (mint, culantro/cilantro, and green onions.

How to eat: Serve this with lettuce wraps (romaine, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, iceberg, and cabbage all work) and warm rice as an appetizer, or as a simple main.

This recipe is adapted from EatingThaiFood.com

* Fish sauce – I think the saltiness of fish sauce differ from one brand to another (e.g. Red Boat, Three Crabs, Squid brand have different levels of saltiness), so make sure you always season conservatively at first, and add more to taste. I always do them in 1/2 or 1/4 tsp increments until I find the perfect balance.

** The intensity of the heat largely depends on what variety of red pepper flakes you use. Thai dried chillies are a lot hotter than Korean dried chillies, so just add this according to your preferred taste and intensity. If you’re using Thai prik bon, add in increments of 1/4 tsp. If you’re using Korean pepper flakes, you can add a bit more.