Nothing says fall like a Vietnamese chicken and cabbage salad! No? Hehe…I guess the 96° F outside today is confusing me a little. The return of the heat, after a handful of beautiful, cooler, breezy days has me craving juicy, herby, big flavor stuff that does not weigh me down. And that describes this salad to a “T”!
Steve and I have a favorite Vietnamese restaurant in North Phoenix. We like it so much that we have taken several of our friends and co-workers to eat there. I still meet with some girlfriends from my past professional life, and we often have lunch there. It’s called Viet Kitchen. This recipe is my attempt to copy their version of this salad. So, Maria and Nataliya, give it a try and let me know how close I got!
I sometimes practice intermittent fasting. No, it does not mean I don’t eat. It just means that every other day I limit my calories to a certain threshold. This salad is a great choice for those days because the protein is lean and low cal. There is no oil in most Vietnamese salad dressings, so the fat content is very, very limited. There is a ton of healthy, filling fiber. But most of all, the combinations of flavors are so huge you don’t feel cheated at all.
So let’s get to making it, shall we?
Here are a couple of tips
I know several recipes that call for shredded cooked chicken. I always dread them a little bit because the chicken meat is invariably from the breast, it’s tough to shred, and it often tastes a little dry to me later. I solved all of those issues for myself with these little tricks:
- Use chicken tenders instead of a whole breast. They cook faster AND because they are smaller, it takes much less effort to shred.
- Poach the tenders with salt and pepper. Add just enough water to cover them and let them cook over low to medium-low heat until done. This keeps the meat juicy and tender. I used to boil the chicken, which I think contributed to making the meat tough and dry.
- After shredding the chicken, drop it back into the poaching liquid until you are ready to use it. This also helps to keep it moist and tender, and the seasonings in the poaching liquid help to season the meat that was inside the tenders.
While the chicken is poaching, mix the dressing ingredients together. Then just let the dressing sit so the flavor can intensify a bit.
When the chicken is fully cooked, it is time to shred it. You can use a fork if you want. I started that way for the picture, but because the poached tenders are so tender (no pun intended), I found it easier to pull the meat apart with my fingers.
And into the poaching liquid they go.
Then prep the salad ingredients. Try to slice the cabbages and the onions as thinly as possible so that the dressing coats them well. If the veggies are too thick the centers miss out on the dressing, making the whole salad seem a little bit blander.
You want to get rid of all of the excess poaching liquid so that it does not make your salad soggy.
In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients and the dressing. Toss thoroughly to distribute the dressing to the entire salad. Let the salad sit for a couple of minutes for the dressing to infuse the chicken and veggies.
And you are ready to serve! Cut up an extra lime to squeeze on top of individual portions, it really enhances the flavor.
Drizzle some sriracha on top if you like chili sauce and heat. We do, so we do!
Dig in and enjoy!
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1 medium garlic, diced
- 4 tablespoons of agave nectar (or sugar)
- 4 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce
- 4½ tablespoons of fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons water
- FOR THE SALAD:
- 2½ cups thinly sliced green cabbage
- 1½ cups thinly sliced red cabbage
- 1 pound chicken breast tenders
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, julienned or grated
- ½ cup thinly sliced sweet onion
- ⅓ cup roasted peanuts roughly chopped
- 1. cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons of mint, roughly chopped
- 4 lime wedges for serving
- Poach the chicken over low to medium-low heat, in just enough water to cover, seasoned with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, combine the dressing ingredients and set dressing aside to intensify in flavor.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, shred it into bit sized pieces.
- Return the shredded chicken to the poaching liquid.
- Prep and slice the salad ingredients.
- Drain the shredded chicken well.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken and the other salad ingredients.
- Pour the dressing and toss several times.
- Let the dressed salad sit for 2-5 minutes.
- Transfer to a serving platter.
- Squeeze fresh lime juice on individual portions.