Vietnamese chicken & mint salad from my book Vietnamese Cooking (Periplus). Mint & Vietnamese mint with a nuoc cham dressing plus shallots, garlic & chili. Fresh & beautiful flavours.
Chicken salad with herbs – Nom ga xe
- 1 lb (500 g) pearl onions or small boiling (pickling) onions, peeled
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white (distilled) vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 lb (500 g) boneless and skinless chicken thigh and/or breast, or about 3 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken, bones and skin removed
- about 3 cups water or stock
- 2 cups bean sprouts (about 5 oz/150 g), rinsed and drained
- 1/2 bunch Vietnamese mint (rau ram), leaves only, coarsely torn (about 1 oz/30 g)
- 3 fresh long red chilies, seeded and very coarsely chopped
- 3 limes, freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Cut the onions into quarters, and marinate for about 10-15 minutes in the vinegar, sugar, and fish sauce. Alternatively, refer to note below about prepared pickles.
If using raw chicken, bring the water or stock to a boil and plunge the chicken into the water or stock. Lower the heat immediately to a bare boil, and simmer the chicken for about 5-7 minutes, or until the flesh has cooked white and opaque throughout. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove from the liquid, cool, then shred with fingers or two forks into small bits. The consistency should be long shreds, not a fine dice. Reserve in a mixing bowl. Pre-cooked chicken merely needs shredding.
Bring another pot of water to a boil. Plunge the sprouts into the boiling water, then drain immediately and refresh under cold water.
Roll several mint leaves at a time into a tight bundle and thinly slice crosswise with a knife to create a chiffonade shred. Prepare the chilies.
At the last moment, toss all the prepared ingredients together, including the vinegar marinade. Season with lime juice, salt and pepper, and if desired, garnish with a chili flower. Serves 6
Hint: Jars of prepared sweet pickled leeks (cu kieu) are readily available in Vietnamese and some oriental markets. These are a quick time saver, used in place of the pickling onions called for in this recipe.
This dish is popular throughout Vietnam, although it originates from the South. Fiery Vietnamese mint, or rau ram, gives the salad a very fresh, floral quality.