Author Totem Douangmala

Origin Lao Peoples Democratic Republic

The heart and soul of Lao food is undoubtedly sticky rice. Sticky rice is eaten by taking a large ball in the non preferred hand, breaking off smaller balls with the other hand and making an indent into the little ball with the thumb between the first two fingers. This texturally chewy sticky glutinous rice is then used to dip, scrape and pick at everything that is on offer. Lao people start by dipping their rice into a condiment or sauce before tucking into what is on offer, generally consisting of a soup and 3 – 4 other dishes. Larb is a dish that is ubiquitous with sticky rice, a dish that all Lao people know and can be tailored to suit an individual’s palate. Larb can be made with any protein, be it chicken, duck, beef or fish.  The recipe is a family recipe which has been handed down from many generations to my father and now me. I cook this regularly with my parents and the thought of not sharing this recipe would go against the values I was brought up with, so here it is. 

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes
Serves 4


700gms or 2 Chicken Breasts
200gms         Chicken offal – thinly sliced mix of liver, hearts and giblets (optional).
1 – 2 limes
2 tbs toasted ground sticky rice (see Note)
1tps oil – sunflower, canola, rice bran oil (whatever is available)
1 birdseye chilli finely sliced, deseeded if preferred
1 clove of chopped garlic
2 tbs fish sauce
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded finely
½ bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
½ bunch of mint, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, finely sliced
½ teaspoon dried chilli powder (optional)


1.       Slice chicken breast in half so that it opens up to resemble the shape of a love heart. This will help the breast cook quicker and more evenly.
2.       Place chicken under a medium heat grill and grill for 5 minutes on both sides or until it is cooked right the way through. Allow to cool to room temperature once cooked.
3.       Meanwhile, for the glutinous rice place glutinous rice grains in a dry pan on medium heat until toasted golden brown. Pound in a mortar or process in a spice grinder until mostly fine. Set aside. (I normally make 1 cup worth and store in a jar or airtight container).
4.       Wipe the fry pan clean and place on a high heat with oil. Add chicken offal and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then throw in the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute (don’t let the garlic burn). Turn the heat off, allow to cool in the pan and reserve pan juices.
5.       Finely chop the chicken breast until it resembles a mince texture and consistency. Place in a large mixing bowl.
6.       Add to the mixing bowl: the juice of 1 lime, fish sauce, offal and reserved juices. Massage all ingredients by hand until well incorporated.
7.       Sprinkle toasted and ground sticky rice in the bowl and massage again until well incorporated.
8.       Add the mint, coriander, spring onions, kaffir lime leaves, chilli, chilli powder and mix to combine well. Ensuring not to bruise the herbs too much.
9.       Adjust with more lime juice and fish sauce to taste.
10.   Garnish with coriander and mint leaves. 

Notes:  Traditionally served with sticky rice, or otherwise jasmine rice will do.
Sticky rice – readily available at leading supermarkets, otherwise any good Asian food store. The toasted ground glutinous rice gives larb that distinct charcoal characteristic. Massaging the lime juice, fish sauce and sticky rice makes a world of difference; 30 seconds of massaging will suffice. 




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