Get your taste buds dancing with this bright Thai Chicken Salad! The zesty chilli lime dressing with the signature South East Asian balance of sweet-sour-savoury and a little heat from chilli will make any salad exciting!
A THAI CHICKEN SALAD WITH BIG FLAVOURS!
Yowzer! This is about as far as you can get from bland, boring salads. I’m a huge fan of Asian salads because they are typically much lighter and fresher than many Western ones, and the dressings pack a great flavour punch.
And this one is no exception. It’s a chilli-lime Thai dressing that has that South East Asian signature sweet-salty-tangy balance with a little buzz of heat from chilli.
I know it looks really spicy because it’s red. But actually, it’s not that spicy because I make this using a store bought Chilli Garlic Sauce. You won’t find me eating this by the spoonful but actually, it’s not that spicy, it looks more dangerous than it is in reality. Go on, have a taste test! 1 teaspoon of this doesn’t even have the same amount of spiciness as 1 Thai or Birds Eye Chilli.
Chilli Garlic Sauce is a terrific trick for thickening dressings / sauces in the same way mustard does in Western dressings, as well as adding spiciness / garlic + some tang because it’s not just made with garlic and chilli. It’s pretty common nowadays, sold at all the supermarkets here in Australia in the Asian section. But don’t worry if you can’t find it, I’ve provided plenty of alternatives in the recipe (Sriracha, hot sauce (even Frank’s), fresh chillies, chilli paste, sambal oelak – loads of options!).
Ah yes, I almost forgot. The spice-adverse may be alarmed to see yet more chillies in the photo above – the finely sliced red chillies.
But fear not! Firstly, they are large red chillies that actually aren’t that spicy at all. Rule of thumb is: the larger the chilli, the less spicy they are, the smaller they are, the spicier they are.
Secondly, yes the finely julienned red chillies add a touch more heat into this salad and it looks pretty, but it’s not a deal breaker just to leave them out. I often do (mainly because I can’t be bothered with the extra chopping action!)
I honestly would not classify this salad as really spicy. The dressing is warm rather than spicy and I barely notice the fresh chilli tossed through the salad. If this was on a restaurant menu that had a spiciness indicator in the form of chilli icons, with 1 chilli being mild and 3 chillies being “blow your head off” spicy, this would be a 1 chilli dish. You won’t be wiping sweat beads off your forehead and guzzling ice water / beer, cursing me silently (or out loud). 😉 Promise! – Nagi x
PS The sweet, soft crunchy of the cashews is seriously great in this. Other nuts will be just fine, but the cashews really make it. I just realised there’s no mention of them, so I thought I better sneak in a point before I sign off!
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
A chicken salad with a fantastic Thai chilli lime dressing with a great tangy-sweet-salty-spicy balance that South East Asian food is known for. Using Chilli Garlic Sauce is a great way to thicken dressing as well as adding more layers of flavour. Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side. Recipe VIDEO above.
- 180 - 220 g / 6 -7oz chicken breast
- 150 g / 5 oz mixed lettuce leaves (or other of choice)
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes , halved
- 1 small cucumber , sliced
- 1/4 red onion , finely sliced
- 1/2 large red chilli , deseeded and very finely sliced (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup roasted cashews , unsalted preferred
- 1/4 cup coriander / cilantro leaves
- 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander/cilantro stems (see video)
- 1 1/2 tsp Chilli Garlic Sauce (Note 2)
- 1 small garlic , minced
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice (or rice vinegar)
- 2 tsp fish sauce (Note 3)
- 1 tbsp canola oil (or vegetable, grapeseed or other neutral oil)
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar (any, I use white)
Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
Boil water in a saucepan. Add chicken, put the lid on, let the water come back up to a simmer, then remove from stove. Set aside for 20 minutes (even up to 45 min is fine). (Note 4)
Remove chicken from water and shred, then cool.
Place ingredients in a jar. Shake well. Taste and adjust as required. It should be a balance of tangy / sweet / salty / hint of spice. (Note 5)
Place Salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle over most of the Dressing, toss. Serve immediately, drizzled with remaining Dressing.
1. Large Chilli: The larger the chilli, the less spicy it is. I use Cayenne peppers which are common here in Australia, they are about 12 cm / 5" long. They are not that spicy once sliced thinly and dispersed throughout the salad. It's more for colour and a bit of heat, so you can leave it out if you're concerned. Watch the video to see how I deseed it with a spoon and finely slice it.
2. Chilli Garlic Sauce is a terrific sauce sold in jars that is now widely available in supermarkets here in Australia (Woolies, Coles etc). It's made with chilli, garlic, vinegar and some seasonings so you get lots of extra flavour layers by using it in a dressing, plus it thickens the sauce like mustard does in Western dressings. Can be substituted with: sriracha, any hot sauce, crushed chilli in a jar, sambal oelak or other chilli pastes. Because the spiciness differs, start with a conservative amount and adjust to taste.
3. Fish Sauce: This can be substituted with soy sauce if you really insist - or need to. It's not quite the same because fish sauce has more complex flavours than soy sauce.
4. Chicken Poaching: This is a foolproof way to poach chicken, guaranteed to come out juicy every time and it is scientifically impossible to overcook the breast. The chicken can stay in the water for 45 minutes and it will still be the same as it was at 20 minutes. If your breast is larger than 220g/7oz, boil for 2 minutes before taking it off the stove, then leave for 20 minutes. Read more about this method in this recipe: Foolproof Poached Chicken Breast.
5. DRESSING: You should not be able to taste any of the ingredients individually. Too sour, add more sugar and oil. Too sweet, add more lime and/or fish sauce. Too fish-saucy, add more lime, oil and sugar.
6. SPICINESS: This salad looks spicier than it is because of that gorgeous fiery red colour of the dressing! But actually, it's fairly mild. The dressing has a warm tingle rather than the bite of spiciness, and the chilli in the salad is sliced very finely and it's not a spicy chilli (see Note 1). Feel free to adjust the spiciness to your taste - just add the chilli gradually into the dressing.
7. Nutrition per serving, assuming 2 servings. 148 calories is attributable to the cashews, so there's an opportunity to cut down on calories here (but note the cashews make this salad extra special!!).
LIFE OF DOZER
He spends a lot of time in this position.