Today’s Larb Fresh Rolls are brought to you by seasonal temperatures! Yes, the weather is finally on the upswing here and I once again believe in the existence of summer. This long-awaited shift has got me thinking about salads, chilled noodles, and boxes upon boxes of popsicles, the more colorful and bizarre-looking the better. Basically, all things refreshing have been strolling through my mind for the better part of a week. Gone are the baked pasta fantasies and mashed potato daydreams. Now, all I want is grilled fish, cool crisp fruit plates and all the fresh rolls I can handle. I’m starting to realize my eating habits would be much healthier if I lived in a warmer climate. Dang. Oh well!Jump to Recipe
Now, if you’ve been here before you know I have a certain affinity for fresh rolls. You can find all the evidence of my obsession here. But I’ll give you the cliffs notes version: if you can wrap it in rice paper, I want to know everything about it. Case in point, today’s Larb Fresh Rolls.
For those of you who are wondering if my use of the word “larb” is the result of sleep deprivation or a sign of an impending stroke, I can assure it’s neither. Larb is both a real word and real good. This dish has loyal fans across the globe but larb has its roots in Northern Thai and Laotian cooking. In its most rudimentary form, larb is a salad consisting of sauteed ground pork or chicken seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice, toasted rice powder, and dried chilies. Typically the dish also contains thinly sliced shallots as well as fresh herbs such as culantro, Thai basil, and mint. Larb is served room temperature alongside rice and a pile of lettuce leaves for wrapping.
With today’s Larb Fresh Rolls I stayed fairly true to the traditional dish. I even went to the trouble of tracking down toasted rice powder, which in hind sight, wasn’t so difficult to find. I just didn’t know what I was looking for. Now that I know what the packaging looks like, I’m extremely confident that I could quickly locate it again. Pretty much any neighborhood Asian grocery store is likely to have it. That’s the thing with unfamiliar ingredients, they’re unfamiliar until they aren’t.
If you do happen to live in an Asian food desert, don’t despair. You can make your own toasted rice powder with a simple skillet, mortar and pestle, and a little elbow grease. Traditional toasted rice powder uses uncooked sticky rice but I found numerous tutorials that substitute jasmine rice to no adverse effect. So, if your grocery store carries jasmine rice, you can make this dish.
Okay, so moving onto another potential deal-breaker ingredient: kaffir lime leaves. Honestly, I am truly blessed to live in a multicultural metropolis where fresh kaffir lime leaves are readily available. They are so abundant and come in such large packages that I often struggle to get through them all. If you live in a small city or town this is probably not your reality and you most likely want to punch me in the face for complaining about such things. I’m pretty sure my mom, who lives in rural Nova Scotia, was a hair away from disowning me when I brought this up the other day.
All of this is to say I am aware of my kaffir lime leaf privilege, so I will shut up about them right after I tell you this: You can totally make these Larb Fresh Rolls without them. They are a nice thing to have but they are not essential. Just add a touch of lime zest and be done with it.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know about these Larb Fresh Rolls. Yeah, that’s it! I really didn’t reinvent the wheel here. I just took a freaking delicious, classic meat salad and wrapped it up in some rice paper because I could. And you know what? I am so glad I did. These rolls are real palette pleasers and the perfect starter to any party.
Larb Fresh Rolls
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 454g (1 lb) ground chicken
- 6-8 dried chilies
- 2 limes juiced
- 2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp toasted rice powder
- 2 tsp demerara sugar
- 2 shallots halved and thinly sliced
- 6-8 kaffir limes leaves cut into thin matchsticks
- 1/4 cup Thai basil chiffonade
- 1/4 cup culantro or cilantro finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint finely chopped
- 12 rice paper sheets
- hoisin sauce for serving
- sriracha for serving
- 2 mini cucumber cut into chunks
- In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until thoroughly browned, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the chicken is cooking, arrange the dried chiles on a baking sheet and place them under the broiler. Cook until the surface of the chilies blister, less than 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on them, they will burn quickly. Transfer the chilies to a spice mill or food processor and blitz until they become chili flakes. Pour the flakes into a small bowl and set aside.
- Once the chicken is cooked, take the skillet off of heat and add the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, toasted rice powder and 1 -2 teaspoons of the chili flakes, depending on your heat tolerance. Toss to coat the chicken and transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the shallots, lime leaves, basil, culantro and mint to the bowl. Toss to integrate and set aside.
- Fill a 9-inch pie plate with luke warm water. Place a rice paper sheet in the water and soak until slightly softened. Transfer the sheet to a wooden cutting board and 2-3 tbsp of the finished larb in the center of the sheet. Fold the sides over the larb and roll the sheet away from you as you would a burrito. Repeat with the remaining rice paper sheets and larb.
- Transfer the finished rolls to a platter and serve with hoisin sauce and sriracha. Add cucumber chunks to the platter if desired. Serve immediately.