Diwali – the festival of lights is typically coupled with abundant feasting. People indulge in overloaded platters of rich Indian sweets, towers of deep fried snacks, and heavy meals loaded with ghee. Traditional recipes and adapted versions of Indian sweets and savories furhter enhance the festive cheer. It really is a very exciting time in the life of a food lover!
Like all good things the festivities eventually come to an end. Once the warm glow of the festive season fades away, we often wonder in disbelief how we loaded our systems with copious amounts (of mostly unhealthy) food. Post Diwali week the Internet is suddenly flooded with detox and healthy eating recipes. Since I forget all about eating in moderation and cutting back on sugar and carbs during Diwali, I jump right onto this healthy eating bandwagon. All the unhealthy items are purged from our fridge and pantry. Our home is immediately restocked with fresh and nutritious ingredients to create simple and healthy meals. These meals are well balanced and wholesome, but never lack any flavours.
My Vietnamese Chicken Salad is a classic example of how a healthy meal doesn’t have to be ho-hum and lacklustre. The chicken marinade celebrates some ingredients characteristic to Vietnamese cooking – fish sauce, birds eye chillies, star anise and coriander. It’s grilled on medium high heat for a slight char to create a smoky undertone that’s classic to grilled meats in Vietnam. The cool, crunchy, well-seasoned salad creates a perfect bed for the warm, flavourful chicken. The combination creates a light and healthy meal that is full of bold flavours.
If you are like my family, where the words “restraint” and “moderation” disappear in conjunction to food during Diwali week, then this recipe is just what the doctor ordered. Pay penance for all the gluttony, without succumbing to bland and boring meals!
Vietnamese Chicken Salad Recipe
Recipe adapted from Donal Skehan’s Vietnamese Crispy Chicken Salad
Yield: 3-4 servings
Time: Inactive 4 hours- overnight Active 20 minutes
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
½ tablespoon ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 whole star anise
1-2 birds eye chillies, seeded
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablspoons vegetable oil, divided
½ kg of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped (seed if you don’t want it too hot)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 packed cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 packed cups purple/red cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, julienned
½ cup bean sprouts
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup mint, chopped
½ cup peanuts, roasted and chopped
- Grind together the garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, star anise, chillies, fish sauce and oil into a coarse paste.
- Score the chicken and coat it well with the paste. Make sure all the paste is massaged well into the cuts in the chicken as well. Store the marinated chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours. Overnight marination is preferable for the best flavour.
- When ready to cook take the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
- In a small bowl mix together all the dressing ingredients.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a non stick skillet on medium-high heat. Place the chicken on it and cook on each side till the chicken is cooked through (meat is white on the inside). About 5 minutes on each side.
- When the chicken is cooked set it aside to rest for 5 minutes. During that time place all the salad ingredients except the peanuts in a large bowl and toss it together with the dressing.
- Make a bed of the salad in a large serving platter. Slice the chicken and put in on the salad bed. Top everything with the peanuts. Serve immediately.