Lunchbox: Larb

countdown to psych GREs, 13 days; countdown until first due dates for applications, 62 days.

Sara chastised me last week for admitting that I was taking cold cuts for lunch. Granted, it was Healthy Choice, and I brought along carrot and celery sticks and a small peach and plum, but still, it's cold cuts, and that's pretty much unacceptable from where she stands. I do my best, but some weeks making an awesome lunch just doesn't happen. Once you start blogging, there's a lot of pressure to produce.
Sara keeps me in line.
So this week I pulled my act together and am getting back to making it from scratch. I've been somewhat enamored of Thai food as of late, having made a bastardized version of Thai barbecue turkey tenderloin (and I can't wait to try it with chicken thighs), complete with Thai cucumber salad, and a sort-of Thai coconut chicken soup all last weekend. In the midst, I've done a lot of browsing through the Thai cookbook and so this week I went with one of the dog-eared pages for something quick, easy, and remotely healthful.

I've never had larb before per se, although Pod does this absolutely amazing beef and chicken lettuce wraps with peanut sauce, which was why larb sounded good and sort of familiar. More interesting than your basic tortilla-based wrap or a sandwich, and bonus creativity points for sneaking in lettuce outside of a salad. The galangal may be a bit strong on first impact, but it's growing on me - I'd start with a bit less if you're not a big sour/ginger fan, as it does have a lingering piquancy. The bamboo shoots and water chestnuts were meant to be stretching vegetables - I was really looking for fresh bean sprouts, and on reflection julienned carrots I think would be super in here, but the veggies are an optional add-on anyhow so suit yourself.

adapted from Thai and from this egullet recipe

6 Tbsp low-fat/reduced sodium chicken broth
1 lb lean ground chicken
1 small onion, finely diced
1 8-oz can sliced water chestnuts
1 8-oz can sliced bamboo shoots
1/4 tsp or so white pepper
1/4 tsp or so garlic powder
1/4 tsp or so salt
3 kaffir lime leaves, very finely slivered
zest of 1 lemon (standing in for lemongrass)
4 scallions, finely sliced
1 tsp powdered galangal
1 Tbsp roasted rice powder
4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp fish sauce
about 15 Thai basil leaves, torn
butter/Boston lettuce

Heat the chicken broth in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the ground chicken and stir to moisten, breaking up with a spoon, and cook about 5 minutes. Add the onion and stir to combine; cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, stir to combine, and cook for 1 minute.
Sprinkle over the white pepper, garlic powder, salt, kaffir lime leaves, lemon zest, and scallions. Toss gently to combine. Sprinkle over the galangal and rice powder and stir to combine well, dissolving any powder. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the lemon and lime juices and fish sauce. Stir well and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens and coats the chicken mixture. Add the torn basil leaves and stir to wilt.
Remove whole lettuce leaves and gently wash and dry (a salad spinner will work well for this). Pack whole leaves flat between paper towels in a container. Take the chicken mixture separately. Eat room temperature or warmed chicken mixture in the lettuce leaves.


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