Laab Kai 4.000

Renee Comet for The Washington Post; styling by Bonnie S. Benwick

Plate Lab Jul 18, 2014

Often spelled "larb gai" to accommodate Americans' pronunciation, this is a perennially popular dish at Thai Basil in Chantilly. What makes it authentic is the addition of toasted rice powder, an ingredient that's quickly created.

For this recipe, it's better to chop the chicken breast yourself. A few minutes with a cleaver should do it.

Serve with sticky rice and accompaniments such as basil and mint leaves, scallions, cucumber slices, long beans and lettuce or cabbage leaves.

Make Ahead: You'll have toasted rice powder left over; it can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Where to Buy: Fresh lime leaves are available at Indian markets and in the herbs section of some Whole Foods Markets.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • 1/2 cup raw jasmine rice
  • 3 or 4 fresh lime leaves (see headnote)
  • 1 pound finely chopped or ground chicken breast (visible fat trimmed off)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice or lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, preferably Thai
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried hot pepper (may substitute dried crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1 small red onion, cut in half, then into very thin slices
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • Leaves from 2 stems cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped


Combine the rice and lime leaves (to taste) in a large, dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook, stirring or shaking the pan often, until the rice is fragrant and much of it has become lightly browned. The leaves should be fragrant as well, and lightly crisped. This will take about 10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Pulse to the consistency of coarse-grain cornmeal. Cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container.

Return the empty skillet to medium-high heat. Once it's very hot, add the chicken and garlic; cook, stirring, just until the chicken is no longer pink, breaking up any large clumps as you work. Turn off the heat.

Stir in the lime or lemon juice, fish sauce and salt, then add 3 tablespoons of the toasted rice powder, the ground hot pepper, red onion, scallions, cilantro and mint; toss to incorporate.

Serve at room temperature.

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Recipe Source

From Nongkran Daks, chef-owner of Thai Basil in Chantilly.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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