Bit of a disclaimer first: when I made the chicken mince for the wraps, I accidentally poured too much fish sauce and as a result, the mince was extremely, almost unbearably salty. It was pretty much just panicky damage control from thereon. I think the original recipe specifies too much fish sauce so when I give my version of the recipe here, I'll cut back a lot and let you modify to your tastes.
I thought about leaving this meal unposted but the thing is, there's potential there. I can't help but think that if the saltiness wasn't an overpowering factor, the rest of the flavors would have worked out beautifully.
I'll update the post once I make this dish PROPERLY. It's supposed to be served with sticky rice but in the spirit of good health, I decided to have my chicken mince wrapped in lettuce. I also used rice noodles and cucumber sticks as accompaniments which helped to cut the saltiness.
The original recipe is from my 'Step by Step - New Asian Cooking' book under the 'Laos and Cambodia' section.
Chicken Mince Lettuce Wraps
For the chicken mince
- 25g long grain rice (I used a combination of brown rice too)
- 500g chicken mince
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 small chili, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp finely grated/chopped ginger
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- extra chopped red chillies, for garnishing
- 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, leaves washed and broken off
- accompaniments for the wrap: cucumber sticks, rice noodles, peanut sauce, chili sauce (all optional)
1. Spread the rice in an oven tray and roast at 180 degrees Celsius for 10-15min or until the grains are golden. Cool slightly and process in a food processor until finely ground. Funnily enough, when I was toasting the rice, some of the brown rice granules popped like popcorn!2. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and add the garlic, ginger, chili and spring onions. Cook over medium heat until the spring onions turn golden.
3. Add the chicken mince to the wok and stir for 5min until browned. Break up any large lumps with a wooden spoon. Add the fish sauce, shrimp paste, rice and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5min without the lid until the water has reduced. If you'd like to thicken the sauce, you can add 1 tsp of corn starch dissolved in 1/4 cup of water and stir that into the mixture.
4. Remove the chicken from the heat and stir in the basil and lime juice until well combined. Taste and adjust the flavors if necessary. I like to add a bit of palm sugar because that goes nicely with the fish sauce and lime juice but it's a matter of personal preference.
5. Serve garnished with chopped chilies and serve with lettuce wraps
I honestly can't give too much reliable feedback about this dish because of the saltiness. To give you an idea, I put more than 1/4 cup whereas I've adjusted this amount to 1 tbsp. The smell of the dish cooking was absolutely lovely though - slightly pungent and sweet with the distinct aroma of fresh basil.
I followed the recipe and added the ground rice but my food processor is cheap as dirt and refused to grind the rice 'finely'. When I added the rice to the chicken, it disappeared and I'm not sure if it added anything to the dish. The next time I make this, I'll probably leave that step out.
It was also recommended that you can add 1 tbsp or so of chopped fresh Vietnamese mint but I hate mint, especially on savory food so I gave that a miss.