VIETNAMESE CHICKEN SALAD

This salad is so fresh and packed full of flavour, I order it every time I go out for Vietnamese. The marinated chicken caramelises as it cooks and paired with the crispy salad and the noodles, is so perfect. The addition of the Nước chấm, a sweet, salty and sour Vietnamese dipping sauce, gives the salad a kick and a sense of completeness. Don't be alarmed by the long list of ingredients - they are mostly staples and/or easily purchased from your local asian grocer or market !!


SERVES 4


1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, pounded to a paste in a mortar and pestle
1tsp lemongrass, pounded to a paste in a mortar and pestle
1 small red chillies, finely chopped
1tbsp soy sauce
500g chicken thigh fillets (approx 4)
2 tbsp vegetable oil

NUOC CHAM
60ml (¼ cup) fish sauce 
60ml (¼ cup) rice vinegar 
2 tbsp white sugar 
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced 
1 red bird’s-eye chilli, finely chopped 
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 carrot, julienned

TO SERVE
Fresh or dried vermicelli noodles, cooked following packet directions
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
Bean shoots
Carrot, julienned
Cucumber, sliced
Herbs (such as vietnamese mint, thai basil or coriander)
Peanuts, lightly crushed
Fried onion
Spring onion, thinly sliced

1. Combine all ingredients together except for the chicken and oil. Stir to dissolve. Add the chicken to the mixture and marinate for at least thirty minutes, turning to coat occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, place fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and 125ml (½ cup) water in a pan over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring mixture to just below boiling point, then set aside to cool. Add garlic, chilli, lime juice and carrot and stir to combine. 
3. Heat a pan or grill plate over a medium heat and add the marinated chicken and any of the remaining liquid. Cook chicken until it begins to caramelise and turn dark brown (approximately 4 minutes). Turn chicken over and continue to cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Set aside to rest. 
4. In four individual serving bowls arrange the noodles, bean sprouts, lettuce and carrot. Drizzle a little of the Nước chấm, paying particular attention to the noodles. Slice the chicken into large pieces and arrange over the salad and noodles. Top with herbs, peanuts, fried onion and spring onion. Serve with extra Nước chấm on the side.

Nước chấm by Luke Nguyen

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