I have never had Vietnamese food before I came to St Louis. It sounded a bit funny considering how close Vietnam is to Singapore and Malaysia. We are neighbors who have never met one another before.
I blame it on the scarcity of Vietnamese restaurants in Singapore. And the polite Vietnamese colleague whom I worked with for not trumpeting the delicious-ness of her country cuisine. Only after I travelled a zillion miles to United State have I been exposured to the amazing cuisine. Still, better late than never right?
Being an absolutely unadventurous eater, I usually steer myself to the safe side when comes to ordering. "A beef pho for me please" is what I order. Oh and a cup of Vietnamese coffee of course. How could I not get a cup of this addictive stuff. It's almost therapeutic to see the coffee slowly dripping down onto the condense milk. Until the incessant nag and complaint comes from OCT. "Yike, this is too sweet!You shouldn't order this next time,it's not good for your health....." All I could think of, is where can I buy the coffee press. So that I can have it everyday. If you know, please drop me a line.
Oh, I really shouldn't be telling this boring and unrelated story. Because this entry is about a Vietnamese recipe I made a couple of nights ago. It's a crunchy Vietnamese Chicken Salad. I like recipe with name like this. It preps you for what you are expecting.
Except, it's better than I envisaged. The dressing was flavorful and distinctly Asian. What with the fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice and thai basil, I almost felt like sitting in a shaded table somewhere along a burstling street; Eating and sweating at the same time at a roadside hawker stall.
Because I don't normally keep chile, cilatro and mint at home, I omitted them and replaced with some thai basil. It worked for me and I am delighted to find a new recipe to bring to the next dinner party.
Curiously the dressing reminds me of the green mango/papaya salad I had in Thailand. I guess as far as Southeast Asia cuisine is concerned, we are influenced a lot by our neighboring countries. I would try this dressing with green mango if lady luck handed some green mango on my lap.(which is fat chance) But I am equally happy to use green cabbages, which are abundant and cheap here.
Crunchy Vietnamese Chicken Salad
adapted and modified from Eric and Sophie Banhs via Foodandwine.com
Chef Way- The Banhs like to poach the chicken for this vibrant dish, then toss the salad with a homemade scallion oil.
Easy Way- To save time, use store-bought rotisserie chicken and skip the scallion oil; the salad already gets plenty of flavor from the spicy, vinegary dressing and abundance of fresh herbs.
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar (I used 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon water
1 serrano chile with seeds, minced (omitted)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying (I used just enough oil to shalow fry the shallot, maybe three/four tablespoons)
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 cups finely shredded green cabbage (from 1/2 small head)
2 carrots, finely shredded
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (omitted, and replaced with a palmful of shredded Thai Basil)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint (omitted)
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (from 1/2 chicken)(I roasted 6 drumsticks in a 400F oven until cooked to make the shredded chicken)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, water, chile and garlic and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let the dressing stand for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the shallots on paper towels; reserve the oil for another use. Sprinkle the shallots with salt and let cool.
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, carrots, red onion, cilantro, mint (if using) and shredded chicken. Add the olive oil and the dressing and toss. Sprinkle with the peanuts and fried shallots and serve the chicken salad with lime wedges.
Serves 4 -6 people.