Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

Think of this dish as the Vietnamese version of Chinese chicken salad, a dish of shredded cabbage and chicken with a tangy sweet and sour dressing, but better. With the addition of refreshing mint leaves, pungent fish sauce and a sprinkling of peanuts, Vietnamese Chicken & Cabbage Salad can be served as a light satisfying meal in itself, or served in smaller portions as a overture to an enhanced Vietnamese menu. The dressing and poached chicken can be easily prepared in advance, and refrigerated until needed. I ordered this salad twice while staying at the Saigon Hyatt, where they served it with a basket of addictive Banh Phong Tom, Vietnamese prawn crackers. Banh Phong Tom can be made easily at home by simply purchasing the pre-packaged discs and flash frying them in a wok over medium heat. Watching them magically puff up in mere seconds is part of the fun.

Shredded Chicken and Cabbage Salad (Goi Ga Bap Cai)
Serves 4-6

8 oz. chicken breast, poached until cooked, then shredded into thin strips
4 cups green or savoy cabbage, sliced into thin strips
2 cups carrot, coarsely grated
1 cup red bell pepper, cleaned and julienned
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 tbsp roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup cilantro, for garnish
2 tbsp crispy fried shallots, for garnish (see recipe below)

1 red chili, seeded and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine the shredded chicken, cabbage, carrot, mint leaves, red bell pepper and onion in a large serving bowl, and set aside. Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved, then pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to combine. Top the salad with chopped peanuts and garnish with chopped cilantro and crispy fried shallots. Serve on decorative plates with a basket of puffed prawn crackers. I dare you to try and eat just one!

Crispy Fried Shallots

4 tbsp vegetable oil
6 shallots, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat and stir-fry the shallots for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Store immediately in an airtight container to keep crisp.