I don't know if you're like me, but when the weather starts to warm up and feel springy, all I want to eat are summery foods- light and crisp and cool. Trouble is, in mid-April in Chicago the local produce season hasn't really gotten off the ground yet, so that can be hard to achieve. This salad is a great solution. It's made of ingredients that are readily available year-round, but tastes all cool and summery. It tastes like all the best parts of a Vietnamese summer roll, without the pesky rice paper rolling.
Photo from: foodnetwork.com
This is closely adapted from this Nigella Lawson recipe- I add more lime juice, becuase I like the tartness, and dial back the fish sauce because my husband's not a huge fan. I wouldn't skip it entirely, though- that salty umami flavor is an important part of the dressing. I poach and shred the chicken in advance using this method I talked about last week, and I often break my own rule and use pre-shredded cabbage and carrots- if you do that, it comes together in about 5 minutes. (Though you do have to wait 30 minutes for the onion to marinate. Trust me, you don't want to skip that step.)
Vietnamese Chicken Salad
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (if you’re worried about heat, cut out the ribs of the pepper before mincing.)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tsp teaspoons rice vinegar
- Juice of one whole lime. (I use 1 ½ limes if they’re small or not particularly juicy)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flavorless oil (vegetable, grapeseed, whatever)
- ½ of a white or yellow onion, sliced as thinly as you can manage.
- Half a head of green cabbage, shredded (or approximately one 10 oz pack pre-shredded)
- 1 cup grated or julienned carrot
- 2 chicken breasts, poached and shredded (make sure they’re cooled to at least room temperature before assembling the salad.)
- 1 bunch mint, chopped
- Chopped peanuts (optional)
Stir together the pepper, garlic, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce and oil. Add onion, stir, and set aside to let the flavors meld and the onion mellow for at least half an hour.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrot, chicken, and mint. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and chicken and toss really thoroughly with tongs. Do you think you’re done tossing? Excellent, now toss a little more. This is a lightly dressed salad, it’s important to get everything coated. Serve topped with chopped peanuts, if that’s your thing.