VIETNAMESE CHICKEN SALAD
SERVES 4–6 PREP TIME 30 MINUTES COOKING TIME 20 MINUTES
This is the definitive Asian salad: healthy, low-fat, low-carb and packed with flavour, crunch and other positive, go-getting qualities. If you poach the chicken breasts and prep the vegetables and dressing earlier, the whole thing comes together in moments – perfect for a midweek summer dinner. MAKE AHEAD: The chicken can be poached up to 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container in the fridge. Alternatively, poach a few breasts at the same time and, when cool, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or put them in a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to 3 months – pull one out to defrost whenever you need some for a salad or sandwiches. The dressing may be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in an airtight jar in the fridge. The salad, minus the dressing and the nuts, can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept, refrigerated, in an airtight container.
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) chicken breast fillets
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) Chinese cabbage (wong bok), end removed, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced
300 g (10 1⁄2 oz) carrots, coarsely grated or cut into very thin matchsticks
6 spring onions (scallions), ends removed, thinly sliced
1 large handful mint, leaves only, coarsely chopped
2 large handfuls coriander (cilantro), leaves only, coarsely chopped
50 g (1 3⁄4 oz/ 1⁄3 cup) unsalted roasted peanuts, lightly crushed
2 1⁄2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted VIETNAMESE DRESSING
2 long red chillies, seeded and coarsely chopped 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
100 g (3 12⁄ oz/ 1⁄2 cup lightly packed) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons white rice vinegar (or substitute cider vinegar)
100 ml (3 1⁄2 fl oz) lime juice (about 4 limes)
100 ml (3 1⁄2 fl oz) fish sauce
To serve: prawn crackers (optional)
Trim any visible fat or sinew off the chicken breasts. In a wide saucepan, bring 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) of well-salted water to the boil over high heat and then add the chicken breast fillets. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and gently poach the chicken for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover with the saucepan lid and let the chicken continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. Remove with tongs and allow to cool until it’s stopped steaming, then cover and refrigerate.
For the Vietnamese dressing, mix all the ingredients in a small food processor bowl or a stick blender container and blitz for a couple of minutes, until well blended. Taste for sweet/sour/salty balance and adjust to your liking.
When ready to serve, shred the chicken breasts with your fingers into rough, bite-sized pieces.
Mix the Chinese cabbage, carrots, spring onions, mint and coriander in a large bowl. Add half the dressing, half the chicken and half the nuts and seeds and toss it all together. Arrange on a platter and scatter with the remaining chicken, nuts and seeds, drizzled with the rest of the dressing.
Serve the salad on its own or with prawn crackers.