Griddled Vietnamese chicken with table salad
DIY eating of the most wonderful kind.
Vietnamese table salad isn't a salad as we know it, as the elements aren't tossed together but offered separately.
The diner takes bits of chicken and vegetables, then rolls them all up in lettuce leaves and dips the resulting package in a hot sauce. DIY eating of the most wonderful kind. Offer napkins, as you eat this with your hands. Serves 4
For the chicken
3 lemongrass stalks, white part only,
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 ½ tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
4 skinless chicken breasts
For the dipping sauce
8 garlic cloves
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2cm (¾in) root ginger, peeled and grated
6 tsp caster sugar
Juice of 2 limes
8 tbsp fish sauce
For the salad
1 small, slightly under-ripe mango
3 carrots, peeled and cut into fine batons
½ cucumber, cut into fine batons
Leaves from a small bunch of mint
Leaves from a small bunch of basil
125g large lettuce leaves, such as romaine, washed
First marinate the chicken. Using a mortar and pestle or a small food processor, grind the lemongrass and garlic together with some salt and pepper. Now work in the caster sugar, fish sauce and oil.
Put the chicken in a bowl and pour over the marinade, turning to make sure everything is well coated. Cover and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight.
To make the dipping sauce, using a mortar and pestle or small food processor, pound or blitz the garlic, chillies, ginger and sugar together, then add the lime juice and fish sauce. Add 4-5 tbsp of water (according to how strong you want it) and mix well.
For the salad, peel the mango and cut the 'cheeks' off each side. (They are the halves which you can remove by cutting right next to the stone.) Cut the cheeks into slices or batons. Remove the rest of the flesh from the mango and do the same with it. The flesh must be intact and not soft or bruised, so keep any bits which are less than perfect for making a smoothie (or eat them).
Now, basically, you just provide the array of fruit, vegetables and herbs on a platter. You can either toss the ingredients together (except for the lettuce leaves), or keep them separate and let people pick what they want to add to their plates.
Heat a griddle pan until hot and take the chicken out of the marinade. Cook each bit on both sides over a medium-high heat at first, and then on a lower heat until the chicken is cooked through, turning it every so often.
Serve the chicken with the table salad, the dipping sauce and some brown rice on the side.
Generally diners put their choice of fruit, vegetables, herbs and chicken together, roll them up in a lettuce leaf and dip in the dipping sauce. Let people help themselves.