So the conversation went, “Hun”, yep, “I fancy a Salad”, ok, “not ANY old Salad though”, uh huh, what sort of Salad, “One of your punchy, spicy, healthy ones”, OK………
In the car and of to my favourite Oriental Store to buy the ingredients, I had spent some time researching recipes and flavour combinations and come up with a couple of interesting dishes. I have covered Yin & Yang in previous posts so won’t repeat again suffice to say this was going to be spicy, sweet etc. There are some ‘specialist’ ingredients in this recipe including Green Papaya (NOT the orange flesh version in supermarkets), Dried Shrimp, Thai Sweet Basil and Galangal. The Papaya is Long, rather than round. You will also need 1 Chicken Breast per person, 1 serving of Vermicelli Rice Noodles per person, Shallots, Lime, Lemongrass, Garlic, Thai Red Chilli, Beansprouts, Carrot, Cucumber, Palm Sugar, Thai Fish Sauce, Coriander Seeds, fresh Coriander and Mint, Salt and Pepper.
There are loads of recipes on the internet for Vietnamese Cuisine, click to the left you can find details about popular recipes, then just pick one, stick the name in your favourite search engine and away you go! I decided to try and take the best bits of a number of ideas and incorporate them in the final dish. You will need some shallots, they need shallow frying until crisp, DON’T throw away the oil, as its going to be used once you have also THINLY sliced some Garlic, and also fried until crisp. Drain both on kitchen paper and set aside. The remaining Oil is jam packed with flavour which we will use with the following marinade, (this element doesn’t appear in the recipes I found whilst researching but it would be a shame not to include such a flavour enhancement!).
For two people I used 2 stalks of Lemongrass thinly sliced, 2 cloves of Garlic, 3 Red Thai Chilli’s, some slices of Galangal and a tablespoon of freshly roasted Coriander Seeds (Steenbergs are my favourite), season with Salt and Pepper. You can pound with a pestle and mortar or use a grinder/blender to blitz as finely as possible, which is a lot quicker. Add some of the oil you used to fry the Shallots and Garlic to loosen the marinade, which should end up looking something like this.
The Chicken Breasts need marinating for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, I went for about 2 hours. The nước chấm sauce is served with many Vietnamese dishes and adds punch and depth of flavour.
The general rule of thumb is 1 part Fish Sauce (Nam Pla), 1 part Sugar (Palm Sugar is preferred), 2 parts Water and Lime Juice (I used 1 whole Lime). You can then add some extra flavours to enhance, in my case 1 thinly sliced Red Thai Chilli, 4 Slices of Galangal, 1 sliced Garlic Clove, and 1 tablespoon of Tamarind concentrate. You can put the fish sauce and palm sugar in the microwave for a few seconds to help it dissolve. Set aside in the fridge once made to enable the flavours to develop. Before you serve it run it through a strainer to remove the bits.
The Green Papaya Salad is mainly a construction job, the Papaya is quite long, you can just see it at the top of the post, on the top left hand side of the picture, its not the same as many of the Papaya you get in supermarkets that have orange flesh. I used one for two people along with a 5 inch length of Cucumber, seeds removed and julienned, 1/2 a carrot, a handful of Beansprouts, 3 thinly sliced Shallots, a couple of Spring Onions, again thinly sliced, and about 10 cherry tomatoes, halved. Herbs were chiffonade of Mint, Thai Sweet Basil and Coriander, a good handful of each. Using a mandolin with Julienne setting speeds up the chopping!
I Baked the Chicken in the oven for 30 Minutes, and rested for 5 minutes. Whilst the Chicken is resting, take two servings of Vermicelli Rice Noodles, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water, follow the instructions on the packet, mine said 3 minutes. Slice the Chicken, place the Noodles on the plate, and the sliced Chicken on top, sprinkle some more chiffonade of Thai Sweet Basil on top. Take your prepared salad and GENTLY bruise with a rolling pin, releasing some of the tomato juices, add some of the nước chấm dressing and sprinkle some crispy Shallots, Garlic, Roasted Peanuts and if you can get them, some Dried Shrimp that has been fried and crushed.
Delicious; understatement, the boss was well chuffed (as was I). The Chicken (proper from our local supplier Casey Fields), was so juicy and tender, and punchy flavours of Lemongrass, Chilli and Garlic, the Salad refreshing, crunchy and stunning. You can add some more nước chấm dressing to lift it even more.
This dish took a while to prepare, but done in stages its easy. Fry the Shallots and Garlic first as using the Oil in the Marinade adds more flavour. The Salad can be made in advance, but crush and add the dressing at the LAST minute.
Have a go at this one, it will leave you feeling fantastic.
Till next time…………….L8ers…