The weather is warming up, the days are getting a little longer and the wine bar down the road has set up their outdoor tables and chairs – this can only mean one thing… summer. To me summer means freshness, lightness and happiness. If those three things could take a foodie-form it would be this – my Thai-style Chicken, Coconut and Vermicelli Salad. Inspired by the beautiful cuisine of South-East Asia it features a familiar chorus of flavours – tangy, sweet, sour, spicy, and nutty all combined with whisper-thin rice noodles. Best enjoyed in the sunshine and with a drink in a fun glass, lots of ice and a miniature umbrella.
2 skinless chicken breasts – organic, free-range if possible
2 spring onion stalks, chopped into 3 cm batons
1 garlic clove
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, sliced
¼ cup coconut, shredded
3 tbsp fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves
½ tbsp white pepper, ground
1 tbsp tamari – light soy sauce can be substituted
3 cups water
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup thai basil leaves
150g vermicelli noodles
Peanuts, lightly roasted and roughly chopped
Fried shallots, for garnish
For the dressing:
¼ cup lime juice
1 tbsp palm sugar – brown sugar can be substituted
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 small chillies, chopped
¼ cup brown rice, toasted and pounded to a rough powder
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
In a saucepan combine the water, garlic clove, ginger pieces, coconut, spring onions, fish sauce, white pepper, kaffir lime leaves and tamari. Bring to the boil and let simmer for approx. 5 minutes. Turn heat right down and pop in the chicken breasts – making sure that they are completely submerged. Gently poach for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Turn off heat and let the chicken sit in the poaching liquid for a further 2 minutes. Remove from liquid and set aside until cool enough to shred.
Place the vermicelli noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for approx. 5-10 minutes or until tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water.
While the chicken is poaching, combine the sliced carrots, cucumbers, capsicum, onion, basil leaves, and vermicelli noodles in a bowl.
To make the dressing, combine ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.
When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and add to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Pour over the dressing and toss to combine. Divide between four plates and top with a sprinkling of fried shallots, roasted peanuts and extra toasted rice.