Tuesday, August 5, 2014
vietnamese noodle and chicken salad
This is a Honolulu-Edmonton noodle dish.
I know what you're thinking: of course, those two cities have so much in common!
Well, here's how it happened. Two years ago, Scott and I ate a Vietnamese-inspired cold noodle salad for lunch sitting out in the courtyard at Café Julia in Honolulu. The salad was so refreshing and so exactly right that we asked the manager to give us hints about what was in it.
I faithfully wrote his few words down. Lime. Fish sauce. Cilantro. I tucked those words away, waiting for just the right time to recreate the salad. But as it turned out, I just needed to wait for my friend Isabelle to have us over for lunch.
A couple weeks ago on a hot Saturday afternoon, Isabelle served us this noodle and chicken salad she had adapted from Nigella Lawson.
The chicken was moist and packed a punch of flavour – which I now know comes from the genius idea of soaking torn pieces in the dressing. And it was a grocery-store roasted chicken! Hallelujah for not heating up the kitchen!
We gobbled it down as if we'd been starving for two years (which we had) and were soon eating the leftover jap chae noodles with a bit of extra sauce dribbled over.
We've already made it twice at home, usually working with whatever we've got handy in the fridge and garden. Last week, that was kale, lettuce, chives, and peas. It does indeed call for lime, fish sauce and cilantro. Those are key ingredients, but we didn't have cilantro last time, so we threw in some sorrel from the garden and it was fantastic.
Now, do you know about Korean jap chae noodles? They are made from sweet potato starch and they're the best noodle ever – transparent and tremendously long with a nice firm elastic bite. We find them in Asian stores: they're worth the trek.
So, there you are: a new summer noodle dish inspired by Honolulu, made in Edmonton.
P.S. Works well in your lunch, too.
one year ago: homemade barbecue sauce
two years ago: eton mess
three years ago: sun tea
four years ago: chocolate raspberry horse turds
vietnamese noodle and chicken salad
adapted from nigella lawson and isabelle
feeds 3 – 4
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 – 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or chili flakes if you like heat)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/4 c. fish sauce (nam pla)
juice of 1 – 2 limes
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. sugar
1 – 2 c. bought roasted chicken, shredded or torn
500 g. Korean jap chae (sweet potato) noodles or glass (bean) noodles
2 c. greens: tender kale, lettuce, spinach, tender swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens*, torn if you like
fresh peas, if you have them around
3 green onions, sliced diagonally (or lots of chives, chopped)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (or a few leaves of sorrel if you have it)
2 tsp. neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
1 tsp. + 1 tsp. sesame oil
Whisk all the dressing ingredients together.
Take 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss it well with the torn chicken pieces.
Boil the noodles according to their package directions. Drain and rinse them well with cold water. Toss with 1 teaspoon sesame oil in their pot. Use kitchen scissors to cut through them a few times so they're only a foot long instead of ten feet long (seriously). Mix in the chicken, greens, peas, green onions, and some of the cilantro. Add the oils and see if you'd like to add the reserved dressing – probably you will. If you're having trouble mixing everything, use your hands or two salad tongs and try not to stress out.
Serve with more cilantro sprinkled over top.
* If you have tougher greens, such as old spinach or thick curly kale, steam it a tiny bit first or throw it in at the end of the noodles cooking for a minute.