Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Coconut chicken salad

I adapted this creamy, piquant, zesty Thai-inspired salad from a recipe found ages ago on the Age website.

Although, adapt is perhaps not the right word: I was intending making the recipe to specification, but the heavens had other ideas. For one thing, the green papaya I bought, having checked with the veggie shop lady that it was indeed an unripe papaya for salads, turned out not to be! Oooops. Then there was the toasted rice thing. Had planned on doing that too, but was too short of time. (It was good to learn how to make it, though, for a time when time is on my side (g).) The lack of time (and it being hot in the kitchen) also threw the blackened chillis out the window! I'll keep that one up my sleeve for next time.

Not to worry. The recipe was stellar for all that. The only thing I would advise is to add a little less fish sauce to begin with, and check for saltiness as you go.

This is an Australian recipe, tablespoons are 20 ml and cups 250 ml. If using non-Aussie measuring spoons, add an extra teaspoon for each tablespoon. Just guestimate for the cups. It is not going to make much difference to a recipe like this.

For the chicken
2 chicken breasts, skin removed
1 tin coconut milk
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp grated palm sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves

For the dressing
2 green chillies, halved and deseeded (leave seeds in if you want it hot)
3 tbsp grated palm sugar
juice of 1-2 limes
3 tbsp fish sauce
2-3 tbsp of cooled coconut poaching liquid

For the salad
1/3 cup rice
1/2 cup of peanut oil
6 large dried red chillies, halved and deseeded
1-2 green papayas, peeled and cut very thinly (a mandolin is good)
a handful each of Thai basil and coriander leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced

For the chicken: Gently poach the chicken in the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and lime leaves until just cooked (about 10 minutes depending on size). Leave the chicken to cool in the liquid. Once cool, shred by hand.

For the dressing: Crush the chillies in a mortar and pestle, then add the sugar and combine until you have a wet paste. Add remaining ingredients and pound (you can use a food processor but the mortar and pestle gives a better result). Adjust to taste. If the dressing is too hot add more coconut liquid.

For the salad: Place the rice in a wok over high heat and stir until the rice turns opaque and lightly toasted. When cool, crush into fine crumbs in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Place the clean wok over high heat with the peanut oil. When the oil is hot, add the dried chillies and move about with a ladle. They will turn dark brown very quickly. Turn onto kitchen paper. When cool, crush to a powder as for the rice.

Combine the papaya, chicken, lime leaves, herbs and dressing. Place on serving plates and sprinkle with the ground rice and blackened chilli.


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