Friends had been telling me for a while that The Hairy Bikers books are phenomenal when it comes to cooking. My partner being particularly inclined towards their dishes, I decided to get one of their latest books, Asian Adventure. Needless to say, it covers their last tour of quite a lot of cities in some major Asian countries, namely Thailand, Japan and South Korea. I have to say, my friends were right. The book is brilliant and full of new recipes I had no idea I could tap into. I also loved the fact they use original recipe from real people living in those cities, which sometimes they have adapted to make them more UK-friendly (only by means of being able to actually source the ingredients!).
These little cups are just delicious. To be perfectly honest, I could have eaten the filling by the spoonful on its own, but I think the lettuce cups complement it nicely. Don’t worry if you can’t find all of the ingredients, because some can be easily left out and/or modified. Just to give you a for instance, the original recipe called for the leaves of a bunch of mint, coriander and Thai basil to be added to the mixture. I didn’t (I’ll come clean, I forgot to) and the chicken was superb nevertheless. Also, the original recipe called for sticky rice to be used, while I used normal basmati and obtained the same result. You need to be flexible in the kitchen. Also, I don’t see the point in stocking up on ingredients you might use once and then leave there to go off. So, for instance, I use maple syrup instead of mirin (I appreciate it’s not the same, but it does the trick and uses up my maple syrup), dried herbs for the fresh ones (so here I added some dried mint) and so on. Make your life easier!
Ingredients (for the chicken)
- 500g boneless, skinless chicken thigh/breast, minced or finely chopped
- juice of 1 1/2 limes
- 4 tbsp uncooked rice
- 50g unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 4 banana shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, very finely shredded (optional)
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced at an angle
- 8-10 baby gem lettuce/cos lettuce/cabbage leaves
Ingredients (for the dressing)
- juice of 1 1/2 limes
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 dried chilli, chopped or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 3 bird’s eye chillies (red or green), deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
- 1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
- thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
- To make the dressing, put all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside until needed.
- Put the chicken in a bowl with the lime juice and leave it to marinate for about 5 minutes.
- Place a large pan (or wok) on the heat, add the uncooked rice and dry roast it for a good 5 minutes or until it is golden brown. Yes, it sounds foolish, but stick with me. Tip the roasted rice into a food processor or spice grinder to make it into a coarse powder, then set aside. Add the peanuts to the wok and toast them until golden brown, then also set aside.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and let it heat , then add the marinated chicken. Fry it until it’s cooked and nicely golden (the original recipe said not to, but I think it adds to the flavour). Ensure there are no pink bits remaining and keep on breaking it up with the back of a spoon or a spatula.
- Take the pan off the heat, then add the dressing together with the shallots, kaffir lime leaves and spring onions. Sprinkle in the majority of the rice (leave behind about 2 tablespoons), then mix the mixture together and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- To finish, you can add some herbs (I didn’t, as explained), then toss the peanuts in the pan too. Place the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter and fill with the chicken mixture. Top with the rest of the ground rice and serve. Best enjoyed at room temperature or cold.