Asian Recipes/ Dinner/ Recipes/ Salad/ Side Dish

Lao Chicken Salad (Lao Larb Gai)

11/03/2021

This 15 minute chicken salad is light, fresh and filled with your favourite Southeast Asian flavours. A fragrant blend of herbs and spices give Lao Larb Gai is the perfect combo of salty and sweet.

Bowl of chicken larb loaded with fresh herbs.

Why We Love This

Lao Chicken Salad (also known as Lao Larb Gai) is an amazing side dish that also works well as a main. It’s rich umami flavours are balanced out with fresh herbs and seasonings that bring out the full range of spicy, sour, salty and sweet.

With similar flavour to Thai chicken salad or Thai beef salad, it’s full of restaurant quality flavour while being so, so easy to make at home.

This dish comes together quickly too, making it the perfect mid-week meal. Any leftovers make for a great lunch the next day!

While it is meat heavy, the fragrant herbs and contrasting textures make this salad light and refreshing – a healthy way cool off on a hot summer’s day.

Bowl of chicken larb alongside snake beans and kaffir lime.

What is Larb? 

Larb (also spelled laap or laab) is the unofficial National Dish of Laos. You can find similar versions across Southeast Asia, especially in northern Thailand, where it became popular due to migration of people from Laos.

While there are some differences in seasonings and ingredients used, the essence remains the same. This mouthwatering salad usually consists of minced meat mixed through with fresh coriander, mint, lime juice, chillies or chilli powder, and fish sauce. Toasted sticky rice powder adds a uniquely nutty flavour and texture.

Where We Learned This

Larb is one of our most treasured edible discoveries from Southeast Asia. We had our first taste in Chiang Mai, Thailand but our favourite version (and today’s recipe) comes from the sleepy village of Nong Khiaw, in northern Laos.

Laos is also where we learned how to make mok pa (Lao steamed fish in banana leaves) and this amazing crispy Lao omelette!

Hillside in Nong Khiaw, Laos.

What You’ll Need

  • Chicken Mince – For the best result, make your own mince by slicing the chicken as thinly as you can then chopping it up into small pieces just like we did. Of course, if you prefer to use store-bought mince to save time and effort, you can certainly do that too. Substitute with beef, pork, turkey or duck mince. It’s also a great way to use up leftover turkey or roast chicken.
  • Toasted Sticky Rice Powder – This amazing ingredient adds a burst of nutty flavour. Look for it at your nearest Asian grocery – we found our first batch near the spices section, so try there first. It’s very simple to make at home by toasting glutinous rice and grinding it with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  • Fresh Ingredients – These add the refreshing, cooling, summery flavours to the salad. You can use any variety of fresh mint (peppermint or spearmint both work well), along with coriander/cilantro, finely chopped shallots (or red onion) and spring onion.
  • Fish Sauce – This staple Asian ingredient has a strong smell in the bottle, but is perfect for adding savoury flavour to your cooking. You’ll find it at Asian grocers or in well-stocked supermarkets in the international foods section, or online. If you can’t find it or don’t want to use, you can substitute with soy sauce.
  • Other Seasonings – Along with fish sauce, lime juice, chilli and sugar team up to bring the salty, sour, spicy and sweet notes to the dish.
Uncooked chicken mince in a bowl.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Use High Heat – This will sear and brown the meat, giving it a crispier edge. It will also help prevent any juices from steaming and making the meat rubbery.
  • Splurge On Fresh Herbs – They literally MAKE this salad and are essential to its bright fresh flavour.
  • Fresh Chillies vs Chilli Powder – We used chilli powder for convenience, but if you have fresh chillies feel free to use them. Thai red chillies are pretty hot, so if you’re worried about heat, start with 1/2-1 and increase from there.
  • Garnish – Save some toasted sticky rice powder and fresh herbs to garnish the salad once you’ve plated up.
  • Serve Hot or Cold – If serving cold, let the meat cool down completely before adding the fresh ingredients. This will help the herbs especially to stay crisp and stop them from wilting.

FAQs

What can I serve with larb?

Larb is traditionally served with sticky rice, but you can use any kind of rice such as jasmine or basmati if you prefer. You could also swap the rice for rice vermicelli or glass noodles. It’s also great served as a filling for lettuce wraps (cos / romaine lettuce have the best shaped cups for this). We also think it would be great served alongside crispy Thai spring rolls for a crunchy contrast.

Can I freeze larb?

Yes, just pop it into an air-tight container and store it in the freezer for up to three months.

Can I make it without fish sauce or sticky rice powder?

Of course you can – your kitchen, your rules! However, these two ingredients really do help to bring that authentic flavour and texture to the dish, so we highly recommend them.

Variations

  • Amp Up the Citrus – Use fresh sliced kaffir lime leaves or kaffir lime juice instead of regular lime juice. Or swap the lime for tamarind paste and/or fresh lemongrass.
  • Extra Garnishes – Try it with few drops of sesame chilli oil for a nuttier zing, or add a scattering of fried shallots or white sesame seeds for extra crunchy texture.
  • Extra Veggies – Add capsicum, cabbage, boy choy, bean sprouts or baby spinach and cook in with the mince meat.
  • Make it Vegetarian – Swap the mince meat for finely diced mushrooms, tofu or tempeh, and season with soy sauce instead of fish sauce.
Close up dish of Lao Larb Gai with beans, lime and dipping sauce.

Try these fresh salad ideas next:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Lao Chicken Salad (Lao Larb Gai)

This 15 minute chicken salad is light, fresh and filled with your favourite Southeast Asian flavours. A fragrant blend of herbs and spices give Lao Larb Gai the perfect combo of salty and sweet.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Laotian
Servings: 4 sides
Calories: 1054kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $15

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place chicken mince in a mixing bowl. Add half the lime juice and stir through. This will tenderise the chicken.
  • Meanwhile heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or work over high heat. Add the chicken and stir fry until browned and the edges are crispy, around 5 minutes. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl.
  • Add the fish sauce, remaining lime juice, toasted sticky rice powder, chilli powder and sugar and mix well.
  • Next, add the shallot, cilantro/coriander, spring onion and mint. Toss to combine, then transfer to serving plates.
  • Garnish with extra mint, spring onion and toasted sticky rice powder.

Recipe Notes

  • Chicken Mince – For the best result, make your own mince by slicing the chicken as thinly as you can then chopping it up into small pieces just like we did. Of course, if you prefer to use store-bought mince to save time and effort, you can certainly do that too. Substitute with beef, pork, turkey or duck mince. It’s also a great way to use up leftover turkey or roast chicken.
  • Toasted Sticky Rice Powder – This amazing ingredient adds a burst of nutty flavour. Look for it at your nearest Asian grocery – we found our first batch near the spices section, so try there first. It’s very simple to make at home by toasting glutinous rice and grinding it with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  • Fresh Ingredients – These add the refreshing, cooling, summery flavours to the salad. You can use any variety of fresh mint (peppermint or spearmint both work well), along with coriander/cilantro, finely chopped shallots (or red onion) and spring onion.
    • Splurge On Fresh Herbs – They literally MAKE this salad and are essential to its bright fresh flavour.
  • Fish Sauce – This staple Asian ingredient has a strong smell in the bottle, but is perfect for adding savoury flavour to your cooking. You’ll find it at Asian grocers or in well-stocked supermarkets in the international foods section, or online. If you can’t find it or don’t want to use, you can substitute with soy sauce.
  • Other Seasonings – Along with fish sauce, lime juice, chilli and sugar team up to bring the salty, sour, spicy and sweet notes to the dish. We used chilli powder for convenience, but if you have fresh chillies feel free to use them. Thai red chillies are pretty hot, so if you’re worried about heat, start with 1/2-1 and increase from there.
  • Use High Heat – This will sear and brown the meat, giving it a crispier edge. It will also help prevent any juices from steaming and making the meat rubbery.
  • Garnish – Save some toasted sticky rice powder and fresh herbs to garnish the salad once you’ve plated up.
  • Serve Hot or Cold – If serving cold, let the meat cool down completely before adding the fresh ingredients. This will help the herbs especially to stay crisp and stop them from wilting.
  • Amp Up the Citrus – Use fresh sliced kaffir lime leaves or kaffir lime juice instead of regular lime juice. Or swap the lime for tamarind paste and/or fresh lemongrass.
  • Extra Garnishes – Try it with few drops of sesame chilli oil for a nuttier zing, or add a scattering of fried shallots or white sesame seeds for extra crunchy texture.
  • Extra Veggies – Add capsicum, cabbage, boy choy, bean sprouts or baby spinach and cook in with the mince meat.
  • Make it Vegetarian – Swap the mince meat for finely diced mushrooms, tofu or tempeh, and season with soy sauce instead of fish sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 1054kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 108g | Fat: 62g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 516mg | Sodium: 1810mg | Potassium: 3396mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 748IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 6mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Lao Chicken Salad (Lao Larb Gai)

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Vicky @ Avocado Pesto
    10/04/2016 at 10:42 pm

    5 stars
    Loved Nong Khiaw, when I was there in 2013! Haha too bad you didn’t have any luck with the fishing, and those spiders are TERRIFYING! I looooved Larb Gai while in Laos – so good!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      11/04/2016 at 8:19 am

      Nong Khiaw is such a gorgeous place isn’t it? We couldn’t get enough of the views from that bridge, and the funny little chickens running around everywhere haha. And the lovely people too of course! Yep, a pity about the fishing, but a very very very good thing we didn’t have to get ANY closer to that spider. Uuugh!

  • Reply
    Brian Jones
    08/04/2016 at 5:03 pm

    This sounds wonderful and definitely want to give this a try, I immediately thought about subbing out the lime juice for some tamarind water to add the same citrus effect but with some earthiness.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      08/04/2016 at 5:31 pm

      Oh great idea, it’s amazing the subtle differences you can achieve with trying different ingredients. Enjoy Brian, and let us know how you go!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    08/04/2016 at 4:43 pm

    What an amazing experience! I want to be there with you so bad! Gorgeous recipe too. You guys are so lucky 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      08/04/2016 at 5:30 pm

      Laos is such an incredible country. Looking back, we wish we could have spent more time there, but at least we have some tasty recipes to remember it by!

  • Reply
    Brianne | Natural Girl Modern World
    08/04/2016 at 4:14 pm

    5 stars
    Love this post! I absolutely loved visiting Thailand (especially Chiang Mai for the food) and Laos. Your photos take me back to those days 😀 Sticky rice powder is definitely a new one for me!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      11/04/2016 at 8:22 am

      Thanks Brianne! It’s what we love most about sharing food and recipes, how the flavours and memories can bring you back to places you’ve been or whisk you away to somewhere new! 🙂 Sticky rice powder is an interesting ingredient too. It’s hard to describe what it brings to do the dish, and yet it just wouldn’t be the same without it!

  • Reply
    Mica @ Let's Taco Bout It Blog
    08/04/2016 at 2:49 pm

    5 stars
    I’m in love with all of your photos! So much beauty! Love it! Recipe sounds great. This will be my second recipe with fish sauce. Still haven’t tried it… yet!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      08/04/2016 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks Mica! Oh you really have to try fish sauce, it’s such an amazing ingredient. Just try to resist smelling the bottle haha, it’s guaranteed to smell horrid every time!. 😛

      P.S. We love your blog too, the colours and flavours in all your recipes are gorgeous! 🙂

  • Reply
    Valentina
    08/04/2016 at 2:02 pm

    5 stars
    I want to make a lettuce wrap with this deliciousness!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      08/04/2016 at 4:08 pm

      That is a BRILLIANT idea! We might just do that too next time!

  • Reply
    Sam | Ahead of Thyme
    07/04/2016 at 11:48 am

    Ummm, this salad is making me hungry even though I just ate dinner!!! Thanks for the recipe

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/04/2016 at 11:48 am

      FOR dinner, AFTER dinner, however you want to eat it we will NEVER judge! 😀

  • Reply
    Sherri @ Watch Learn Eat
    07/04/2016 at 11:26 am

    5 stars
    It looks like you had a lot of fun on the river! That spider is seriously CREEPY! I have been afraid to set foot in a river since I was 15 because I spider fell from a tree down my shirt! Not fun! But in any event, the chicken salad looks and sounds amazing. Awesome flavors going on here! Love your story too! 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/04/2016 at 11:48 am

      Haha thanks Sherri, it really was heaps fun, but we felt sooo bad when those rods went overboard. Oh oh, a spider down the shirt does NOT sound like fun! I think I would have fainted if a spider like THAT landed on me!

  • Reply
    Heather
    07/04/2016 at 11:26 am

    5 stars
    I love that you have both mint and lime in this recipe … great contrast in flavors! Beautiful pics too!!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/04/2016 at 11:46 am

      The combo is totally delicious. So popular in Southeast Asian cuisine too. I think that’s why so many Asian dishes are so refreshing!

  • Reply
    Mahy
    07/04/2016 at 11:24 am

    Such a refreshing post! Loved reading it and oh the chicken salad–I am craving it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/04/2016 at 11:45 am

      Haha thanks Mahy, glad you enjoyed. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sara
    07/04/2016 at 10:57 am

    5 stars
    This looks really delicious!! I have to try this sometime!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/04/2016 at 11:43 am

      Thanks Sara, enjoy!

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