During these warm summer days, light and refreshing salads appeal to those who want to fit into their swim suits and also get out of the hot kitchen. Myself included! Recently, I had a craving for chicken salad, but with outdoor temperatures soaring into the triple digits, my stomach churned at the very thought of a mayonnaise or sour cream-based salad. Searching for a light, but flavorful chicken salad, I hit the jackpot when I saw Mark Bittman’s recipe for Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Seasonings. The fresh flavors of lime, cilantro, and mint are well-juxtaposed against the saltiness of nam pla and the kick of chili pepper. Although you can reduce the amount of cilantro and mint, you still need to be a fan of them to enjoy the salad. Grilling the chicken breasts outdoors eliminated heating up my kitchen. If you want to stay cool, drive in your air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned grocery store and buy a rotisserie chicken! This easy and flavorful salad would also be delicious in a lettuce wrap or a bread wrap.
Chicken Salad with Vietnamese Seasonings
Recipe from Mark Bittman’s cookbook The Best Recipes in the World
1 tablespoon nam pla
1 teaspoon cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small fresh chili, preferably Thai, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 medium to large shallots, chopped
2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped rau ram or 1/4 cup each mint and cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
12 or 16 leaves, Boston, red leaf, or green leaf lettuce
1. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and toss with the chicken; set a bit of the herb aside for garnish, then stir the rest into the mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt if necessary.
2. Arrange the lettuce on 4 plates and top each leaf with a portion of chicken salad. Garnish with the remaining herb and serve.
1. Nam pla is a fish sauce that is one of the basic ingredients in Thai cooking. Fish sauce, in general, is used in a lot of Southeast Asian recipes and can be purchased in Asian grocery stores, specialty markets, and some general grocery stores.
2. I added no salt. The nam pla I used was plenty salty.
3. Having no Thai chilies on hand, I used 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced red jalapeno. The heat level of this dish can be easily adjusted by adding more or less chilies.
4. Rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) is the Asian herb of choice for this recipe, but it can be hard to find. I followed Mr. Bittman’s suggestion and used cilantro and mint with success, but the minute I find some rau ram, I’m going to make this salad using it and compare the flavor!