Last night I was leafing through Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid and saw their recipe for Vietnamese chicken salad. I love this salad, but it's been years since I ate it. How does something like that happen? At one time, I had it for lunch all the time when I worked in Sacramento. As I remember, it was the Big Thing at various restaurants, but they often called it Chinese Chicken Salad. I think I abandoned this salad when I discovered spicy noodles with peanuts. High time for me to rediscover an old friend. And the salad contains a lot of mint, so it would be perfect for Herb Blogging Weekend. Go over to Kalyn's site and have a look at the other Herb Bloggers.
Most recipes for this dish are pretty much the same, except some add carrots or red onion to the mix. Nigella Lawson calls this Temple Food because it's low in calories, and perfect when you want to recover from a food binge. She includes one tablespoon of oil, but there isn't a drop of it in the recipe I used. I used mint as a substitute for Vietnamese coriander, which can be hard to find. Warning: don't use regular coriander because it isn't anything like the Vietnamese variety. It wasn't available in my grocery store, but that wasn't a problem because I love mint. I used Napa cabbage, but next time I'll use regular shredded cabbage. The Napa cabbage wilts quickly, which can be a problem if you don't serve it soon after you pour on the dressing. Of course, that was no problem for me. I fell on the salad like a ravenous beast as soon as I took a few pictures of it.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad (Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)
2 pounds of uncooked chicken legs or breasts; or 2 cups of cooked chicken
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
2 or 3 bird or serrano chilies, minced
2 cloves garlic, or more to taste, chopped
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
2 cups shredded Napa or Savoy cabbage
2/3 cup Vietnamese coriander, coarsely torn, or sweet basil or 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground pepper
Poach the chicken in water for about 30 minutes until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife. Remove chicken from cooking liquid and cool, reserve broth for another use. Chicken can be cooked in advance and placed in refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Return to room temperature for the salad.
Discard chicken skin and shred the chicken to make about 2 cups.
In a small bowl, combine, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, chilies, sugar, and garlic. Separate shallots into rings and add to the dressing. Let stand for 30 minutes if possible.
Blanch bean sprouts for about 30 seconds in boiling water, then refresh with cold water and drain well. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, bean sprouts, cabbage, and herbs. Pour dressing over and toss gently to blend,
Mound salad on plates, with ground pepper and herb leaves as garnish. Salad may also be served on hot rice or noodles.