My vibrant Laotian Chicken Larb Wraps are fresh, fast, and easy! You make the fillings, and then your diners assemble their own wrap. Everyone gets what they want. And if your family is like mine, that is a godsend. My husband likes his extra spicy. My daughter with a track meet tomorrow can load up on protein. And I like extra herbs. Everyone wins! Serve them on Tuesday, and you have a fun twist on Taco Tuesday.
What makes my chicken wraps Laotian? Laos is a small country in Southeast Asia that borders Thailand, but their food is all their own. Laos was colonized by the French, and that influence can still be felt today. From tons of fresh herbs to bright sauces, Laotian food is an amazing mix of Asian and French influences.
Sticky rice, a foundation of Laotian cuisine, is enjoyed at nearly every meal. It is such a part of their culture that many Laotians refer to themselves as luk khao niaow, which translates to “children of sticky rice”. My Laotian Chicken Wraps are awesome with sticky rice. See the recipe for mastering sticky rice. Since my family loves noodles so much though, I’ve included instructions to use vermicelli rice noodles as well. You do you and pick one or maybe both?
Larb is another traditional dish from Laos. It’s a minced meat salad, amped up with herbs and spices. It makes good use of any ground meat you might have on hand, from pork to turkey. My Laotian Chicken Larb Wraps start with ground chicken, dark meat please. Dark meat has far more flavor, plus a higher fat content to ensure it stays moist. This larb is packed with citrusy goodness from lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves. Then I really punch up the flavor with shallots and fish sauce. Toasted rice powder adds texture.
Let’s Get Cooking!
First make the rice powder. It is fast to make, and is a great seasoning to have on hand. You can make a double batch because it freezes indefinitely. It adds both a toasted nuttiness and some crunchy texture. If you ever order Tiger Tear beef salad in a Thai restaurant, rice powder is the crunchy bits on top. To make it, you first need to dry toast the raw rice. You want to cook it for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn. We are going for a nice toasty brown. Then you just grind it. You can do this either in a spice grinder, or manually in a mortal and pestle. If you are using an electric spice grinder, be careful you don’t grind it TOO finely. We want a little texture here, like sand.
Next we make the Nuoc Cham. Nuoc Cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce, is one of my favorite flavors. I use it as a marinade, a condiment, and of course as a dipping sauce. I find it is universally loved, and its bright flavors of citrus, chilis, and fish sauce enlivens anything it touches. And making it is as fast and easy as just stirring together the ingredients.
Most Nuoc Cham recipes include vinegar to make the sauce. I prefer all lime juice; in my opinion the sauce is livelier and more flavorful when omitting vinegar. But you could use half vinegar and half lime juice if you prefer or you don’t have enough limes. And if you do decide to use vinegar, definitely use white vinegar because you don’t want any other flavor than the lime to come through and you need that bracing acidity. If you have any leftover Nuoc Cham, you can store it up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Make sure you pour it out or use a clean utensil-no sticky fingers! It’s great as a salad dressing alternative, for dressing grilled fish, or even mixing with some raw fish for a mock ceviche.
Make the Noodles:
If using noodles, choose rice vermicelli. They are super fast to make. Just pour boiling water over them, soak for 30 seconds, and drain.
Cooking the Larb
Making the larb is a simple process. If you’ve ever made taco meat, you’ve got this! First you will cook your ground chicken meat, breaking it up as it cooks. Unlike taco meat, you want to keep your larb meat soft and moist.
Then you just add your aromatics and seasonings, like the lemongrass and galangal, and fish sauce. When it starts to smell really amazing, it’s ready! Take it off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients.
Transfer the larb to a serving bowl. Put the toppings, herbs, noodles and the sauce on a platter with the lettuce, and invite everyone to make their own wraps.
My Laotian Chicken Larb Wraps are tangy from the citrus, a little funky from the fish sauce, and a little spicy from the chilis. I know you’re going to love them. If you make them, we want to know. Leave a comment, and tag @FunkyAsianKitchen in your pics, show us the goods!Print
Bright citrusy Asian twist on Taco Tuesday! Lettuce wraps filled with chicken larb, rice or noodles, and topped with zingy nuoc cham sauce.
For the chicken larb:
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 Pound ground chicken (do not use breast meat)
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 3 Tablespoons minced galangal (or ginger if you cannot find galangal)
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons rice powder (from
- 1 or 2 thai bird chiles thinly sliced, optional
- ¼ cup medium or short grain rice
Nuoc Cham Sauce:
- 6 Tablespoons (3 fl oz) fresh lime juice
- 4 Tablespoons (2 fl oz) fish sauce
- 4 Tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons (3 fl oz) water
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 small chile chopped (optional)
- 8–12 soft lettuce leaves (like red/green leaf or bibb lettuce)
- 1 cup mint (1 bunch)
- 1 cup cilantro (½ bunch)
- 8 ounces dried rice vermicelli (or 2 cups sticky rice)
- 1 cup nuoc cham
Make the Sauce:
- Combine all sauce ingredients.
- Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- This can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a week.
Make Rice Powder:
- Put the raw rice in a small pan. Toast over medium heat for 5-8 minutes until it is a light brown color and it has a toasty smell.
- Grind the rice in a food processor or mortar and pestle until it is coarse-not too fine. It should be gritty like sand. It keeps indefinitely in the freezer if you have extra.
If Using Noodles:
- Put the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
- Let soak for about a minute. Then drain under running water to cool.
- Set aside in a colander to drain off all water.
Make Chicken Larb:
- Remove the tough outer leaves of lemongrass and trim off the top half. You will only be using the bottom portion. Trim ¼” end off of the bottom bulb.
- Slice the lemongrass as thinly as possible. You can also mince the lemongrass if it is easier. Set aside in a bowl.
- Remove the back stem of the lime leaves by holding the leaves closed with one hand and then pulling the string down and stripping it like a string bean. Chop the leaves finely and add it to the lemongrass.
- Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the oil and the chicken.
- Break the meat up with chopsticks or a wooden spoon and continue to cook until no longer pink, 5-6 mins. The chicken should be juicy and moist.
- Add the fish sauce, salt, pepper, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaves and stir the mixture. Take the chicken off the heat.
- Add the shallots, rice powder, and chiles. Stir to combine. Scoop the chicken mixture into a shallow platter or bowl.
- Arrange a platter attractively with the noodles (or rice), lettuce leaves, mint, and cilantro.
- Serve the sauce on the side.
- Each person will take a lettuce leaf, then some chicken, some noodles/rice, some herbs, and a drizzle of sauce. Wrap it up like a taco and enjoy!