I love experimenting with different types of ethnic foods. I’ve tried making traditional foods from many countries. Some have been a success, others have not. Unfortunately I failed at making Ethiopian injera, which is too bad, since I absolutely love it and it’s hard to find where I live. This recipe for Laotian Spicy Minced Turkey has been one of my successes.
My husband turned me on to this dish, which he tried in Laos before we met. We tried it at a restaurant while we were dating, and despite being almost unbearably spicy, I loved it too. After tasting it, and perusing several recipes, I knew I could make it myself.
The dish is traditionally made with minced beef. I usually use store bought ground turkey instead, for the lower fat content. However it can be made either way, and tastes great both ways.
The ingredient list is short, and for the most part the ingredients are readily accessible. You will need rice, oil, ground turkey, shallots (I have substituted red onions at times with equally delicious results), lemongrass, mint, hot red peppers, chili flakes, lime juice and fish sauce.
The rice in this recipe does not get boiled or steamed. Instead, it gets roasted and ground into a coarse powder which serves to slightly thicken and add a crunchy texture to the dish.
Roast the rice in a dry skillet over medium heat until it’s golden brown. Then let it cool and grind it using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
The turkey is the only other ingredient that gets cooked. Everything else is just minced and stirred into the browned turkey, making this dish incredibly fast and easy to prepare. If you are in a rush, roast and grind the rice ahead of time.
The prepared dish can be served either lukewarm or cold, but not hot. It is typically served with rice, and is often served with whole lettuce leaves to allow people to make lettuce wraps with the minced turkey and rice.
The recipe I have provided is much less spicy than it would traditionally be, though it does still have a bit of a kick. If you love your food extra hot, use extra hot peppers and/or chili flakes.
- 2 Tbsp rice
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 3-4 stalks lemon grass (use only the tender inner part of the bottom 2-3 inches), thinly sliced
- 1 large or 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes see note
- 1 large red chili thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves torn
Place rice in a small dry skillet. Roast over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes, shaking occasionally. Transfer to a plate or bowl to cool. When cool, place in a mortar or spice grinder, and grind until it is the consistency of coarse sand.
Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet or wok over high heat. Add turkey and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until turkey is well browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Add all remaining ingredients to turkey and stir to combine. Serve immediately, lukewarm. Serve on top of lettuce or cabbage leaves if you wish, with rice on the side.
This dish is traditionally made quite spicy, but 1/2 tsp chili flakes makes it only mildly spicy. If you prefer hotter, add more chili flakes and/or hot pepper.