Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

This is it. A totally healthy, refreshing and easy end-of-the-summer meal.

Here's why: It's a crisp, clean and substantial salad; it involves one of those sweet-spicy-umami dressings that are a trademark of Vietnamese cooking; and it involves one super-simple cooking step (poaching some chicken), and a little chopping. And, technically, you could make it even easier by using purchased rotisserie chicken, or cooking yours ahead of time.

Whenever we want something different like this, one of our favorite sources of inspiration is a Williams Sonoma Southeast Asian cookbook. Sometimes we simplify the recipes or substitute for hard-to-find ingredients, but this one was pretty much good to go as is. You can't really ask for anything simpler than a big plate of crunchy salad to dig into with your chopsticks. Credit goes to Mike for picking it and doing all the cooking. I poured the sake--also a very important job.

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Savoring Southeast Asia by Joyce Jue

Most Serrano chiles aren't very hot, so we used the seeds and all. If you can get Thai chiles (or bird's eye chiles) and like heat, use those; jalapenos work too. You can chop an extra chile and pass at the table for the real heat lovers.

Serves 2 as a main course with leftovers (may be doubled)

For dressing:
2 Serrano chiles, minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 Tbs. lime juice
2 Tbs. fish sauce

For salad:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and chopped
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, julienned
3 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until sugar dissolves.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, cabbage, carrot, mint and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper (you shouldn't need more than a pinch of salt). Add about two-thirds of the dressing and toss. Add additional dressing as needed. Transfer salad to plates, sprinkle with peanuts and serve.


Julie said...

This salad is a favorite of mine --delicious and healthy, although I usually roast chicken thighs rather than using chicken breasts so it's a little less light and healthy than it might be. But so wonderful tasting; I can polish off bowls of this stuff all by myself.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I often make salads like this, and with a similar dressing -- when I don't have chile peppers, I use a bit of chili paste with garlic instead.

Rachel said...

This looks wonderful!

Cookie said...

These type of "Asian" Salads are so under-rated and I'm so glad you did a recipe for them! None of my friends ever wanna order them because they feel like ordering a "salad" is weird at an Asian restaurant but they don't know what they're missing! Fish Sauce is probably one of my FAVORITE Asian flavors! :)

Julie said...

Cookie: i totally understand! The inclination is to order something "fancier," but the salads are amazing. I also love fish sauce and use it in all sorts of non-Asian dishes too.

gowshika said...

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Chicken Rotisseries