This is one of our dad’s favorite dishes to order when we go out for Vietnamese food, and I’ve spent a few years trying to get even remotely close to how good it is at Rice and Noodles (should you find yourself in Lancaster, PA, do yourself a favor and go there). This is my white-girl, 50% legit, satisfying attempt….enjoy.
Ingredients for the salad: (serves 4 as a main dish)
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 1/2 large head of white cabbage
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped basil
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped mint
- 2 shallots
- Vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted)
Ingredients for the sauce:
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Make the sauce: First mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl so the flavors can marinate for a minute. If you’re in doubt about fish sauce, just embrace it. [I like Red Boat as my go-to fish sauce, which you can find in Asian grocery stores but probably not Safeway. In the past I’ve used other varieties and it’s all fine for this recipe].
Cook the chicken: Put the two chicken breasts into a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to a simmer and continue to let simmer till cooked through (takes about 20 minutes). Let the chicken breasts cool on a cutting board. Alternately you could bake or pan-cook the chicken, but I like to boil them for this recipe because the texture is good and it’s super low maintenance.
Fry the shallots: Alright y’all, buckle in, this is the best part about this dish: make the fried shallots…..in the MICROWAVE. Your house won’t smell like oil for days, the shallots will be a crispy bit of heaven on top of the salad, you’ll shock and awe your friends with your radiation skills. Slice the shallots into thin coins, maybe 1/8″ thick, and place evenly along the bottom of a large GLASS dish. You ideally want a flat bottom dish. Then pour vegetable oil over the shallots, enough to *just* cover them.
Every microwave is different so you have to experiment here. I had one microwave where I would cook the shallots and oil for 1 minute on high, and then in 20-30 second increments after that, checking on the shallots at each interval to avoid burning them. In my current microwave, I do 2 minute increments, and probably end up cooking them for like 6-8 minutes total because my current microwave is a piece of shit.
You don’t need to stir or move the shallots in between checks, just open the microwave and look at them. When they start to get golden brown, pull the dish out and use a fork to fish all the shallots out of the dish and onto a dry paper towel to cool. Leave them there while you make the rest of the dinner.
Compose the salad: Next thinly slice the cabbage, red pepper, onion and shred the carrots so you have a lovely shredded salad. Finely chop the cilantro, mint and basil and toss that in with all the veggies. Toss the salad and the dressing together to let the veggies soften a bit and absorb the dressing (takes about 5 minutes).
Serve with the peanuts, shallots and lime slices as toppings. I recommend keeping the shallots and peanuts separate so they stay crunchy, and people can add their own.