Low-fat chicken with zing

July 19, 2006|By ROBIN MATHER JENKINS | ROBIN MATHER JENKINS,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The zingy fresh flavors of Thai cuisine really fascinate me, but I've hesitated a little about cooking Thai at home, thinking it was too complicated. Then I saw several recipes for laab - sometimes spelled larb, laap or lob - and realized I could easily make one of the first Thai dishes I ever tasted.

My chicken version is really speedy, and it's low in fat. While it's often served with steamed sticky rice, I usually eat it as a casual wrap using Boston lettuce leaves.

The contrast of spicy chicken and cool mint and lime, slightly chewy chicken and tender greens never fails to please me.

Robin Mather Jenkins writes for the Chicago Tribune, which supplied the recipe analysis.

Thai Chicken Wrapped in Lettuce (Laab)

Serves 4 -- Total time: 22 minutes

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 cup water

5 green onions, thinly sliced, green and white parts

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1/2 cup each, chopped: fresh mint, cilantro

2 tablespoons each: fish sauce, ground rice (see note)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-chili flakes

juice of 1 lime

2 heads Boston lettuce, leaves separated

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken and water. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up large pieces, until chicken has turned completely white, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat; drain chicken.

Combine chicken, green onions, shallots, mint, cilantro, fish sauce, ground rice, chili flakes and lime juice in a serving bowl; toss well.

Place lettuce on a plate. Let diners prepare their own wraps by placing a spoonful of chicken on a lettuce leaf and rolling it up.

Note: To make ground rice, heat a small, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup rice (jasmine or sticky rice is best, but use whatever you have on hand).

Stir constantly until the rice turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool. Grind in a coffee mill or spice grinder. You will have some left over for another time.

Per serving: 162 calories, 7 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 56 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrate, 16 grams protein, 757 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber

Menu suggestion

Thai chicken wrapped in lettuce (laab)

Shredded cucumber salad

Roasted mango slices dusted with coconut

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