In pursuit of perfection.
This is my favourite Thai salad. I love it more than the seared beef noodle one and more than the green papaya one, which means it is utterly delicious.
Crunchy textures and zingy aromatic flavours make it... Minced chicken thighs are simmered briefly in a little stock with sugar and ginger, then fish sauce and lime juice are added. It’s cooled, and then the juicy meat is mixed with bean sprouts, cucumber, chilli and fresh herbs. It’s that simple.
However, if you like the real thing, try add a sprinkling of toasted ground rice to the finished dish. As an ingredient it’s wonderfully nutty and toasty. But be warned, once you’ve tried it, you won’t love any Thai recipes that call for it unless you use it.
Thankfully, unlike hopping on a long haul flight to get a fix, the coarse ground golden powder is quick and easy to make: glutenous rice (easily found in oriental supermarkets or online) is dry toasted in a pan until lightly golden, then ground in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. Store in an airtight jar (it will keep for several months) a little goes a long way.
For a less authentic addition you could also toss some cooled glass or rice noodles through the salad, it might not be the true Thai way, but it’s no less delicious and is a nice touch if you’re craving a few carbs.
- 400g chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, blitzed in a food processor until finely ground
- Juice of 2 juicy limes
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 tbsp Thai fish sauce
- 150ml light chicken stock
- 1 large piece of ginger, finely grated
- A small handful each of fresh mint, coriander and Thai basil
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and cut in to strips
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- A few slices of finely sliced red onion
- 3 tsp toasted ground rice powder
- A large handful bean sprouts
- Sliced cucumber and round lettuce leaves to serve
- Start with the ground rice. Take 5ish tablespoons (depends on how much you want to make) and toast them on a medium high heat in a dry frying pan until lightly golden all over — this will take around 10 minutes and you’ll need to keep tossing the pan. When they’re ready, put them into a bowl (as otherwise they’ll continue to brown in the pan as it cools down). Once cool, grind on a coarse setting in your coffee grinder, or do it in a pestle and mortar and work up a bit of a sweat.
- For the chicken, place the stock, sugar and ginger in a pan and bring to the simmer, add the chicken and using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula, break the chicken up in the liquid as you stir it, cooking it through. Keep breaking it up until it separates into small pieces and is fully cooked, which will take around 6 to 7 minutes.
- When it’s cooked, put the chicken and the liquid in to a mixing bowl and add the lime juice, fish sauce and chillies and leave it to cool. When it’s lukewarm, sieve the chicken, reserving the juice.
- To the drained mixture, add the red onion, spring onion, bean sprouts and rice powder. Toss together gently.
- Finally, add the fresh herbs and spoon over a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquor. Serve on top of the sliced cucumber and lettuce.