Vietnamese Chicken and Mint Salad

by Kristin on July 27, 2010

When you’re a freelancer who works to deadlines, taking time off can be a mixed blessing. The time away is great, but I work overtime before I go to clear my desk and then more overtime when I come back to catch up. Kelly put it perfectly when she said it’s like trying to fit 25 hours of living (or working, in this case) into a 24-hour day, which is why we’ve been eating a lot of salads in my house for the past few weeks while I worked to clear my desk in advance of my solo trip back to the States. Salads are the summertime equivalent of wintertime one-pot wonders, but with the added benefit of coming together in no time at all (which also makes them perfect for lazy summer cooks). The flavors in this one are cool and crisp, but it’s still substantial enough for a main course, especially on hot days when you don’t feel like eating much of anything at all. Like the white bean, salami and spinach salad, this is another favorite salad that I make at least once every summer.

Vietnamese Chicken and Mint Salad
from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson

Serves 4 as a main course

A food processor or mandoline slicer makes short work of the chopping and shredding in this recipe. If you don’t want to turn on your oven to roast the chicken, you could poach it instead, or just buy a rotisserie chicken from the store and avoid heating up your kitchen altogether.

4 chicken breasts
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, finely sliced
1/2 head of white cabbage, shredded
4 to 6 medium carrots, shredded or grated
1 large bunch of mint, roughly chopped, with some set aside to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly grease a baking tray with olive oil.

Place the chicken breasts on the baking tray. Drizzle the chicken with a little olive oil, then sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop into bite-sized chunks.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the chili, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, vinegar, sugar, and black pepper to taste. Add the sliced onions to the mixture and set aside for 30 minutes.

In a big plate or bowl, mix the cabbage, carrot, mint and cooked chicken. Pour over the dressing and toss well, making sure everything is combined and covered thinly with dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve on a flat plate with a little mint scattered on top.

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