SERVES 1 TO 2 | COOKING TIME: 20 minutes

I have often said you can laab anything. And in “anything” I include bits of leftover meats and vegetables. Tart, spicy, and fresh, this treatment is guaranteed to “fix” any dry Thanksgiving turkey, or the ends of roast beef. I’ve even laab-ed roasted squash and cut-up pieces of omelet. Laab is usually served with sticky rice, but you can serve it with jasmine rice, wrap it in lettuce, or serve it with fresh cucumber. Note: I have provided a small base recipe here because it’s meant for using up bits and bobs in the fridge; scale up to whatever quantity of leftovers you have.


  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) uncooked jasmine or Thai glutinous rice

  • 5 ounces (150 g) leftover meat and/or vegetables

    WNK- Sabai Cookbook cover Sabai: 100 Simple Thai Recipes for Any Day of the Week Pailin Chongchitnant
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lime juice

  • Pinch of granulated sugar

  • Roasted chili flakes, store-bought or home- made (see below), to taste

  • 3 tablespoons (22 g) finely julienned shallots

  • A big handful of mint and any other fresh herbs (see note) 

Note: In addition to the mint, other good options are cilantro, green onions, and dill, but feel free to experiment with other herbs you have on hand


  • English cucumber, sliced

  • Sticky rice or jasmine rice

  • Romaine or butter lettuce, if making lettuce wraps

Make the toasted rice powder by placing the rice in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is dark brown. It might get a bit smoky, so make sure the kitchen is well ventilated. Pour onto a plate to cool slightly, then grind into a powder with a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, leaving some pieces a bit larger for texture. 

Thinly slice, chop, or shred your leftovers into small pieces; you can decide how best to process the item depending on what it is. For poultry, I like to shred it by hand; beef, I thinly slice; and veggies, I coarsely chop. The key here is small pieces.

Heat the leftovers up slightly so they are warm or room temperature; you can do this in the microwave or give them a quick sauté in the skillet. 

Make the dressing by combining the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chili flakes, and shallots in a mixing bowl; stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. 

Add the leftovers, toasted rice powder, and fresh herbs to the dressing; toss until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. 

Serve with cucumber and sticky rice or jasmine rice, or with lettuce leaves if making wraps.

*Taste and Adjust

Writing a recipe for leftovers can be only so specific because the main ingredient is unknown. I always tell people to taste and adjust no matter what, but it’s especially important to do that here. This recipe is a basic formula that works with most simply seasoned foods without any sauces, like roast chicken, pork chops, or roasted veggies. If your leftovers come to the table already with strong seasoning, especially if they’re quite salty, start with half the amount of fish sauce and lime juice, and taste and adjust from there.

Roasted Chili Flakes (Prik Pohn | พริกป่น)

COOKING TIME: 10 minutes

Any amount of spicy dried red chilies, washed

Prik pohn is a staple condiment in every Thai household. It’s added to many dishes and also used as a table-side condiment for adding heat to any dish that needs it, without the extra flavors or oils that hot sauce or other spicy condiments would add. When you buy noodle dishes in Thailand, for example, they always comes with prik pohn for you to customize the spice level. And, if you use enough of it, it’ll also add a slight smokiness, which comes from the roasting. You can use any type of dried chilies that are spicy, whether Thai, chiles de árbol, or the generic dried chilies sold at many Chinese markets.

In a dry wok or skillet, toast the chilies over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they develop some charred spots and smell smoky. If you’re not making a huge amount, this will happen in just a few minutes, so keep an eye on them. Transfer the chilies to a plate to cool. 

Grind the chilies into small flakes using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. If using a grinder, allow the chili dust to settle before slowly opening the lid. Store in the fridge or freezer, as over time dried chilies can get mold that won’t be visible.

Excerpted from Sabai by Pailin Chongchitnant. Copyright © 2023 Pailin Chongchitnant. Photographs by Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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