Backpacker's Pantry Chicken Larb
Edit 2023.11.14 - this meal is a limited release, and seems to be available only direct from Backpacker's Pantry
A tasty rendering of a traditional spicy southeast Asian chicken and rice meal, well worth stocking up on.
- easy rehydration
- good flavor
- perhaps just a little too much spice?
Larb: a Laotian or Thai spicy salad consisting of ground, chopped, or minced meat and vegetables. I've never encountered this dish before, and after trying Backpacker's Pantry's take this previous lack of experience saddens me.
I was intrigued by the idea of mint as part of a main dish. How strong would that flavor be? How would it balance with the garlic and the chilis?
- 400 calories per pouch
- 33g of protein per pouch
- 2 servings per pouch
About the only cautions I might have regarding the listed nutrition values are the sodium (1250mg per pouch) and caloric values (400 calories per pouch). The sodium as a flavor was not much in evidence, and that percentage of daily value (54% for the whole pouch) doesn't look too high for a summer hiking meal. But relative to a big load/big miles day, that caloric value might be a smidge low? Time will tell.
Then I look at the ingredient list, and I see lime and cilantro and vinegar powder. How does this tie in with the mint? All of these should work wonderfully with the chili peppers of course, and chicken and rice are excellent bases to carry flavor. So, what might this *actually* taste like?
The short answer: deliciousness.
The first few bites feature a strong citrusy bite, some bit of cilantro tang, and just the mildest hint of both chili heat and mint freshness. All in all, it works really, really well. If this is what can be done with a freeze-dried meal, I so want to find somewhere to try this fresh! Texture and rehydration were both just about perfect.
But as the meal progressed, a wee problem reared its head. The chili. I have a plenty strong tolerance for heat in food, although I definitely prefer to taste all the other flavors in my meal. In this instance, the heat kept building and building until it overwhelmed all the other flavors.
I shared this with a hiking partner, and was glad I had done so. While there might have been a point where the heat leveled off, and therefore likely no chance of burning a hole through one's mouth, we were both just a little disappointed that we couldn't taste anything but chili peppers by the end of the meal.
I followed the package instructions to the letter (Add 1 1/2 cups/360mL of boiling water. Stir well, seal pouch, wait 8 minutes. Stir again, reseal, wait 7 more minutes).
Rehydration of the rice and veggies was complete, with almost no "extra" water left over. The diced chicken was about 95% rehydrated—there were one or two pieces per bowl that weren't quite fully hydrated and would likely have benefited from a couple minutes more standing time. But otherwise, this was as quick and easy as any freeze-dried meal should be.
Absolute. This was delicious. Filling when shared without being too much even in the middle of a hike, and likely a good size for an end-of-backpacking-day refuel. Probably best when it can be paired and shared with something of milder flavor, and prepared with perhaps a smidgeon more water and time than called for. All in all, this will be going into heavy rotation as the backpacking season heats up (even if I might wish for a little less overall spice)!
Also, it has been brought to my attention that eating this wrapped in a tortilla might help to tone down the spice level—an absolutely intriguing idea which I will test out later this year!
Joshua has been hiking, backpacking, and car-camping for more than four decades. He is based primarily in the Pacific Northwest, but has hiked throughout the US, with forays into Hawaii and New Zealand.
Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (Sample for testing provided by Backpacker's Pantry)
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Current Retail: $11.00
400 per pouch
33g of per pouch
2 per pouch