Friday, July 1, 2011

Cooking with the Shoe Doctor: Hmong-style chicken salad (i.e. chicken Laaj)

One of my favorite ways to break in a new pair of shoes is to wear it while I'm cooking.  I'm usually standing and walking around for at least 1 hour, usually more, so it's a great multi-tasking activity.

This time, I wore my red patent 'Laurie' pumps that I showed you in May.

Laaj (pronouced like 'Laa' but with lots of force - which is indicated by the 'j') is a traditional Hmong dish (there are similar Thai and Vietnamese versions as well) that is very fragrant and so incredibly delicious!  It's one of my favorite dishes in the world.  It's normally made with ground pork or beef, but I made it with chicken.

Here is my recipe:
1 whole roasted chicken, or 4 throughly cooked chicken breast (grilled is best)
3 limes
1/3 cup of freshly chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of freshly chopped mint
1/3 cup of freshly chopped green onions
1/3 cup of freshly chopped Thai basil (looks like regular basil but has purple stems and less serrated leaves)
1/8 to 1/4 cup of roasted rice powder
2 chiles (optional)
salt and pepper

First, I lightly salted and peppered my cleaned whole chicken.  I then placed it in a pan, added the equivalent of the juice of 2 limes, covered the pan with a layer of aluminum foil, and  popped it in my oven at 425 degrees F for 30 mins.  Then I removed the aluminum foil and reduced the cooking temp to 375.  Overall, the chicken took about 1hr to cook.

While the chicken was cooling down, I prepared all the four herbs.

from left to right: cilantro, mint, green onion, and Thai basil
I plucked the softer part of the leaves + stems from the harder parent stem:

and chopped everything up:

I also chopped up 2 spicy chiles to give my dish an extra kick.

Next, I pulled all the meat from the chicken and chopped that up too

I like to leave the skin in there, but you don't have to do that.

Next, add the roasted rice powder to the chopped chicken.  I used about a third of the bag.

Then stir in the chopped herbs, chiles, add lime juice to taste (I use anywhere from 1/2 - 1 lime) and more salt if you like.  And, voilá!  The dish is done!

Unlike your typical chicken salad, this dish does not call for any mayonaisse or oils, so it's actually not that terrible for your health - especially if you make it with chicken breast instead.  I like to eat the laaj over jasmine rice or in a wrap, either a bread wrap or a lettuce wrap.  

By the end of my cooking session, my Lauries were feeling much more customize to my foot shape!  Woot woot!

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