When the oppressive heat and humidity of summer hits, nobody likes turning on their oven. I sure wish I was one of those who people who craves salads exclusively until the mercury drops, but sadly I usually turn to items with significantly less nutritional value: ice cream, gelato, frozen peanut butter pie, sangria, etc., etc.
But if there was ever a salad to change my ways, this would be it. It’s filling, healthy, colorful and has that hot, sour, salty and sweet combination that those Southeast Asians do so well.
Shredded Napa cabbage, chicken (feel free to use a store bought Rotisserie chicken here if you’d like to save time), carrots and thinly sliced onion tossed in a lime, fish sauce and rice vinegar dressing.
But what really makes everything pop is the herbs- two full cups of chopped mint, cilantro and Vietnamese coriander (also called rau ram or rau rahm). A final sprinkle of toasted peanuts adds a little crunch.
The cabbage and chicken combo is classic, but I think the salad could be easily adapted to whatever you have on hand; shrimp would be great, as would leftover grilled pork or beef.
Goi Ga- Vietnamese Spicy Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Yield: 8-10 servings
* 2 large chicken breasts (about 1-1-1/2 pounds)
* large head Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
* 1 small to medium red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
* 4 carrots, peeled and shredded
* 2-4 Thai chiles (depending on heat tolerance/preference),thinly sliced
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 Tablespoons sugar
* 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
* 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons rice or rice wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
* 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
* 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
* 1 cup fresh Vietnamese cilantro (also called rau ram or rau rahm), finely chopped. If unable to find, omit and increase the cilantro and mint to 1 cup each.
* 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, roasted peanuts
Place the chicken in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cooked through. About 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. Discard the chicken stock or reserve for another use. When cool enough to handle, use forks or your fingers to shred the chicken breasts.
In a very large bowl* combine the cooled, shredded chicken, cabbage, onion and carrots. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine the chiles, garlic and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to mash together until the chiles and garlic have broken down a bit and have tinted the sugar an orangey-red color (you can also use a mortar and pestle for this step if you have one). Add the lime juice, rice or rice wine vinegar and fish sauce and stir. Pour the dressing over the chicken and cabbage mixture and toss well. Add the cilantro leaves, mint and Vietnamese cilantro and toss again. Let sit for at least ten minutes to allow the flavors to meld and for the cabbage to wilt just a bit. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates and top with the peanuts.
* Note: Before the dressing is added and the cabbage wilts, this is a very voluminous salad. Unless you have a 5+ quart mixing bowl, you might have to divide the ingredients in two large bowls to be able to fit everything. Alternatively, you can halve the recipe.