Recently some friends travelled to Vietnam and how I wished they could have packed me in their suitcase! However, they did bring back a little of Vietnam in the form of a cookbook, Vietnamese Food by Bobby Chinn (already a fan) from his restaurant in Saigon. Thank you dear friends… a wonderful foodies gift!
Having indulged recently (not just me) on some home-made bread and desserts it was time to scale down the calories in the household and this Vietnamese Salad made a welcoming change! Not wanting to spend as much time in the kitchen (needing a break), preparing food that is quick and easy without compromising on flavour and taste is first choice.
The taste of this simple salad relies on the freshest ingredients… so no limp herbs, dried out carrots and dry chicken please!
The original recipe uses birds-eye chillies, but I opted to use medium chillies instead. Depending on your tolerance level to the spicy heat (Scoville scale) of different chillies you may want to de-seed them! You could also make this salad with prawns instead of chicken, replace the basil with mint and scatter over a few roasted peanuts on top, the choice is yours! Bursting with fresh clean flavours this salad makes you feel good after you’ve eaten it and the only shame would be… not to make it!
The recipe below has been adapted from the cookbook Vietnamese Food by Bobby Chinn.
- 4 small skinless chicken fillets, poached (see note below)
- 2 star anise
- fresh chicken stock or make some using a stock cube
- 4 lemon grass stalks, tough outer leaves removed and very finely sliced
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 to 4 medium chillies de-seeded (or not), finely snipped using kitchen scissors
- 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into very fine matchsticks (100g)
- 50g thinly sliced white onions
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
- 100ml of freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil (I used Thai basil from the garden)
- 1/4 cup of freshly chopped coriander
Poaching the chicken: Place the chicken fillets in a single layer into a saucepan and pour in some chicken stock to cover, add the star anise. Bring the stock to a gently boil and immediately reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook the chicken for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan with a lid and allow the chicken to further cook in the hot stock for about 20 minutes. Test the thickest part of the chicken to make sure it is cooked through, if not, bring the stock back to a simmer and leave (removing from heat) to cook for a couple of minutes more. When done transfer the cooked chicken fillet onto a plate and cool.
Assembling the salad: Place the lemon grass, spring onion, chilli, carrots, onions and garlic into a mixing bowl. Shred the cooled chicken and add to the mixing bowl. Pour over the lime juice and gently toss all the ingredients together. Next throw in the basil and coriander and gently toss together. Divide the salad between four serving plates and serve immediately. Serves 4.