Vietnamese Crispy Chicken Salad

The garlic and ginger for this salad are charred under a broiler to give the chicken a subtle, caramelized sweetness. Coriander seeds and star anise are toasted in a hot pan until they jump and pop, becoming wonderfully aromatic. These two important steps ultimately result in a Vietnamese Crispy Chicken that tastes sweet, spicy, salty and, with the addition of mint and cilantro, truly refreshing.
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 5 hr 30 min (includes marinating time)
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

Chicken:

4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 thumb-size piece ginger, unpeeled

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 star anise

1 green chile, roughly chopped

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Good handful fresh cilantro leaves and stalks

1 tablespoon fish sauce (preferably Vietnamese)

8 skin-on, boneless chicken thighs, well-trimmed

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Dressing:

3 tablespoons fish sauce (preferably Vietnamese)

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

1 small red Thai chile, very finely chopped (seeds removed if you don't like the heat)

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Salad:

200 grams (7 ounces) Chinese cabbage leaves, trimmed and finely shredded

50 grams (1.75 ounces) fresh bean sprouts

2 large carrots, cut into fine julienne (on a mandoline is best)

Good handful fresh cilantro leaves

Good handful fresh mint leaves

Good handful salted peanuts, roughly chopped, for garnish

Directions

  1. For the chicken: Set the garlic and ginger on a broiler rack and place under a hot broiler until charred on all sides. Leave to cool, then peel and roughly chop before putting into a mortar and pestle. Toast the coriander seeds and star anise in a dry frying pan over medium heat until aromatic; tip into the mortar and pestle and add the chile, lime zest and cilantro. Bash to a paste, then mix in the lime juice and fish sauce.
  2. Smear the paste all over the flesh side of the chicken thighs. Arrange the thighs on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  3. To cook the chicken, heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the sunflower oil and then the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Reduce the heat to very low and cook until the skin is nice and crispy, 20 to 30 minutes. (Don't shake the pan or touch the thighs during cooking; just leave them alone and you will produce the most fantastic crisp skin and succulent flesh.)
  4. When you can see that the chicken thighs are nicely browned and the flesh is almost but not quite cooked through, turn the thighs over and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, until completely cooked through and tender. Transfer to a carving board and leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. For the dressing: Meanwhile, mix together the fish sauce, sugar, chile, lime zest and juice in a small bowl. Set aside until needed.
  6. For the salad: Put the cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, cilantro and mint in a large bowl; toss lightly to combine. Add dressing and toss to coat.
  7. To serve, divide the dressed salad among 4 plates and then quickly carve the chicken into slices and pile on top. Scatter over the peanuts.

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