Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Southeast Asian sojourn 1: Thai minced chicken salad with cashew nuts

Since we went out with friends to a Thai restaurant in Ueno (Tokyo), I've had Thai food on the mind a bit. And Vietnamese, too. So I thought I'd do some Southeast Asian-inspired recipes this week for a bit of a change.

This dish, adapted from a great recipe in Blue Ginger, which I mentioned a while back, is exactly what I had in mind when I went in search of a larb recipe back in February! That effort really tasted fabulous, but was not quite as colourful as I might have liked. But this rendition, with its contrasting reds and greens, lovely clean tastes AND cashew nuts, is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the tongue!

This time, I used what Blue Ginger author Les Huynh calls "red Asian shallots". These are a whole different thing from the shallots I used last time, and really pack quite a wallop for such a small onion. Which is why I cooked them along with the chicken. They're left raw in the original recipe, but I'll leave the final decision about what to do with them up to you. (Red onion would substitute nicely if you can't get a hold of the little red shallots.)

The original recipe serves this salad with a wedge of raw cabbage. The Young Man didn't fancy that, so we did without, but I reckon next time I will try this with some shredded cabbage thrown into the herb and nut mixture.

Although this was my first selection from Blue Ginger, I think a hearty recommendation for the book is in order. Sometimes cookbooks with scrummy pictures don't come up with the goods with the recipes, but happily this isn't one of them. Les' recipes are super easy to follow, and callout shots of the more unusual ingredients really help you know what you're after. Les even includes recipes for Southeast Asian kitchen staples like chilli jam! The publishers have also done a great job with the index in this work, so it is super easy to pinpoint the recipe you're after. Cookbook junkies rejoice!

Anyway, I was so impressed with this recipe, I'm doing another one from the book tonight. In fact, lemongrass chicken is marinating away in the fridge as we speak. Roll on dinner time!

Thai minced chicken salad with cashew nuts

For 2

250 ml chicken stock or water
300 g minced chicken
3 small red shallots

3 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of chilli powder

Herb and nut mixture:
1/4 small cabbage, finely shredded
1 handful mint leaves
1 handful coriander leaves
1 lemongrass stem (white part only), finely sliced
1 double handful of cherry tomatoes ( in Japan, I like Nanachan tomatoes), some halved, some quartered
1 handful roasted cashew nuts

1 To make dressing, combine lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chilli powder in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

2 To make the herb and nut mixture, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and gently toss together.

3 Pour the chicken stock into a pot and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, shallots and a pinch of salt (if using unsalted stock). Cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked, then drain and put in a large bowl. Add the dressing and all the herb and nut mixture, then toss together thoroughly.


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