Vietnamese Chicken Salad (Goi Ga)
The key to great, flavorful gơi bắp cải gà (chicken and cabbage salad in Vietnamese) is to boil the chicken properly. Flavoring the broth prior to boiling the chicken is essential. This is the one chance you have to infuse additional flavor in the meat. As Tatie Danielle (aunt) says, "everyone knows how to make the sauce, not everyone knows how to cook the meat properly." She used to run a restaurant in the early '90s and is the best Vietnamese chef I know.
Even though this is referred to as a salad, it is typically eaten as a main course. Not only is it a great, filling meal, but nothing goes to waste. With the leftover broth, you can make súp bún măng gà, literally bamboo and chicken rice noodle soup, or a rice congee (cháo gà in Vietnamese), which is a type of chicken and rice porridge. The porridge in particular is great in the winter. I'll post the recipe when it starts getting really cold. For now, enjoy some Vietnamese Chicken Salad!
Yields: 8 servings1 whole chicken
3 fried yellow onions (see tips), not too browned
4 chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 daikon turnip, peeled and half of the daikon shredded
1 yellow onion
1 (1-inch) chunk rock sugar
3 tablespoons Thai basil, chopped
3 tablespoon Vietnamese mint, chopped
3 sprigs rau răm (see tips), chopped
3 sprigs ngò gai (see tips), chopped
1 red onion (or shallot for a stronger flavor)
2 teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt (or salt)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup peanuts
chili salt (optional)
1 (2-inch) chunk fresh ginger
3 cloves pickled garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce (see tips)
1 tablespoon dried fried shallot (store-bought)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 red Thai bird chile (optional), stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cups Chinese cabbage, shredded
Assembly time: In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, red Thai chili, shredded daikon, dried fried shallot. shredded cabbage and pickled red onion with its macerating liquid. When you're ready to serve, drizzle the gỏi sauce (salad dressing). Add all the chopped herbs. Toss well. Season with more salt (if needed) and the remaining black pepper. Sprinkle the peanuts (if you like).
For the vegetarian version, check out the banana flower salad recipe.
If you want to make a very authentic soup, the choice of chicken is crucial. Buy it from your Asian market and ask for a gà đi bộ, literally a walking chicken. In Vietnam, gà đi bộ chickens are considered "free-range"; the chickens are "trained" to run and as a result the meat has a totally different texture from the chicken found in American grocery stores.
Frying onions is easy. Chop the onion. Heat about 1 inch of canola oil in a skillet. Fry the onion in the oil, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning until the color is evenly golden brown. Drain the oil on paper towels. I always make extra so that I can vacuum-seal and store in the freezer for future use. I place about one cup per bag. You can store them up to 3 months. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. I keep them exactly the same way I would with extra pesto or (papaya) meat tenderizer for poultry.
Don't discard the onion-flavored oil; save it for your next salad dressing.
Did you know that the flatter the onion is, the sweeter it is? I always try to pick flatter-shaped yellow onions at the market.
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the sauce. You can find it at gourmet specialty stores or in most Korean markets. I get mine at Marina Foods -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.
Daikon (củ cải trắng in Vietnamese) is an Asian turnip that looks like a large white carrot. I use this root a lot for making broth for the natural sweetness it provides. Discard the root when the broth is ready. It's also delicious when it's pickled with carrots and is commonly used in Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches.
I love bean sprouts and fresh cabbage in salads; they add some crunchiness to the dish.
Vietnamese mint has a very different flavor from regular mint. It also has darker vein markings on the leaves. It's commonly used in Asian salads, Vietnamese chicken salad and also in spring rolls (gỏi cuốn in Vietnamese).
Rau răm and ngò gai are Vietnamese coriander leaves used in South Asian cooking. I buy them at the Asian market. If you don't have any, just use regular cilantro and double the amount.
To prevent the herbs from darkening, chop them at the very last minute, toss them into the salad and serve immediately.
I use Ponzu brand soy sauce; it's perfect as a dipping sauce. It's lemony and less salty than regular soy sauce.
I buy dried fried shallots at the Asian store. It's crunchy and very strong in flavor. You can also make your own by frying thinly sliced shallots if you like.
Make ginger lemongrass drink with the remaining ginger paste.
You can use fresh garlic instead of the pickled garlic but the garlic flavor is going to be a lot stronger. You can find pickled garlic in any Asian store.
If you don't have a mortar and pestle to slightly crush the peanuts, just use a rolling pin.Published By: on October 25, 2009.