2015, I love you already.
This salad is the flavor bomb of my life. I am trying to really put into words how much my mouth loves this combination of fresh and unexpected flavors, crunchy-filling textures, and nutritious food power. But mostly all I can do is just close my eyes and ask myself: is it crossing the line to eat this for breakfast?
This Vietnamese Chicken Salad starts with the tangy, salty, lime-and-garlic-y dressing, which totally shines with the cooling mint + cilantro and a handful of fiery-crisp serrano peppers, which all results in me wrapping my fork with a combination of spicy-cool, salty-tangy veggies, chicken, and NOODLES (♡♡♡).
Even though I am not a teacher anymore, I feel like I am forever entitled to a two week teacher-schedule-style winter break, which is totally ridiculous and not even close to realistic in real life but, um, hi. I would still like to have it.
So while Bjork and I did some work here and there and at all odd hours of the night like true Internet people over the last two weeks, we’ve had some really awesome time to get up and out from behind the computer and be alive.
After the week of Christmas (parties, sick days, and out-of-town-friend-visits, oh my!), we split ways: Bjork took a week-long road trip with some friends, visiting cool hipster donut shops and eating, uhh, how do we say this? rustic? hot dogs from mom-and-pop stands around Chicago, while I, on the other hand, had a week full of slumber parties with my sisters and girlfriends, including sushi dates, a popcorn-and-ice-cream viewing of The Vow (Channing + Rachel + me being shamelessly obsessed), and shopping for post-Christmas-sales and new running gear for my healthy New Self in the New Year.
Speaking of which!
I am probably going to be eating 50x my daily recommended amount of chicken, cabbage, carrots, noodles, mint, cilantro, and Vietnamese dressing in the first week of the New Year. You guys, this is one major vegetable party! I’m glowing just thinking about it.
This recipe was inspired by a recipe for a Vietnamese salad out of the new Saveur cookbook that I got for Christmas, which I have decided to read COVER TO COVER like a true food geek. Not joking. I have never read a cookbook cover to cover, but I’m currently halfway through and have at least 800 pages earmarked with delicious recipe ideas to try, so I’m thinking I might make it a life rule for cookbooks.
This Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Rice Noodles <— important! is so, so, so, sooo yummy. Like to the point that I can’t even think of anything else to say besides “it’s so, so, sooo yummy.”
The shredded carrots, cabbage, chicken, and noodles make the base of the salad, and the mint, cilantro, and green onions just make my flavor-loving heart soar: it’s like I’m taking a cooling spa bath with every bite.
And then, the dressing. I’m just going to tell you right now: its primary saltiness comes from the fish sauce, which is not going to smell awesome when you give the bottle a sniff BUT YOU GUYS. Please, please, please don’t skip it. Remember how delicious the fish sauce is in this red curry sauce? Same goes for this one. I honestly feel like the fish sauce is what makes the dressing, because paired with the lime and the rice vinegar and the sugar and the garlic? Ugh. So much good going on in there.
Yeah. Like, ultra yeah.
Three cheers for the salad in 2015!
- 3 serrano peppers
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons fish sauce
- 6 tablespoons lime juice
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 6 ounces rice noodles
- 4 large carrots, peeled
- 8-10 full leaves of green cabbage
- one large handful of each -- cilantro leaves, mint leaves, and green onions
- DRESSING: Thinly slice the serranos and set aside. Pulse all the remaining dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Stir in the sliced serranos.
- CHICKEN: Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the chicken breasts, turn heat off, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let the chicken cook for 25-30 minutes - while it's cooking, you can prep the other ingredients. Remove from water, let cool slightly, and shred with two forks. Pour a small amount of the prepared dressing on the chicken to give it flavor and set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
- NOODLES: Soak the rice noodles in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes or until softened. Heat a small amount of the dressing in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the drained noodles and stir-fry for 5 minutes (I found it helpful to grab the handle and give the pan a good shake every 30 seconds or so). Cut through the noodles with a kitchen scissors if you want them to be shorter and easier to eat.
- VEGETABLES: Cut the carrots into pieces and pulse in a food processor for 10-15 seconds until finely chopped. Shred the cabbage. Mince the cilantro, mint, and green onions.
- ASSEMBLY: Toss the chicken, noodles, vegetables, and remaining dressing (to taste) together. Serve immediately.
If you're assembling the recipe ahead of time, I would suggest keeping the veggies separate from the dressing, and tossing it together just before serving.