Thai Chicken salad

Say “today’s meal is a salad” to any red-blooded, hungry individual and a nasty tone of defiance is sure to consume the conversation. But, just before things get out of hand, add the mystic words “Thai chicken” and all sorts of transformations in mood and food desire start to kick in. Salad alone is a punitive and unnatural thing, but the high octane enhancements of the Thai sauce, coupled with the protein slam-dunk that comes with the chicken, makes this meal as real as food can get.

Thai Chicken salad
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To make a Thai Chicken Salad for four, you will need:

  • 4 chicken breasts • 1 lettuce • 1 English cucumber
  • 5 spring onions • An entire bunch of fresh coriander (dhania)
  • 200g cherry tomatoes • 4 cloves of garlic 
  • Sunflower or canola oil 
  • Freshly ground black pepper on demand
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon light soya sauce
  • 4 to 6 red chillies • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons palm or brown sugar

We begin by creating a highly flavoured coating for the raw chicken. Debone and skin the chicken breasts. Select five roots from the whole dhania plants and wash carefully to remove all traces of Mother Earth. Combine these with the four garlic cloves, teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and two tablespoons of oil. Macerate these ingredients to form a paste, using the grinding, mixing or shredding tools of your choice.

With a spatula, spread the fragrant paste over the raw chicken breasts and leave them under cover for 10 minutes or so, then cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Select a heavy-bottomed frying pan and pour in just enough oil to cover the bottom. Bring the oil up to medium heat then fry the coated chicken sections until they are cooked right through. Remove and allow to cool under cover (damn flies!). Now for the raw stuff. Wash and spin-dry the lettuce leaves. Cut the baby tomatoes into halves or quarters. Dice the English cucumber.

Top, tail then chop the spring onions. Arrange the prepared raw vegetables on a suitable platter for final serving. Remember the high-octane enhancement? Well here it comes. Mix the fish sauce in a bowl with light soya sauce, freshly squeezed lime juice, finely chopped chillies and brown sugar. If you can find palm sugar at your local Asian supermarket – great!

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Otherwise KZN brown sugar does the job just as well.

Chillies, as we have discussed before, are a wild and powerful experience not necessarily loved by all. Check your guests’ chilli capacity before serving. If they are wussies and become emotional over spring flowers and newborn puppies, use fewer chillies and remove the pips prior to mixing. Arrange the cooled, cooked chicken pieces over the salad on the serving platter. Evenly distribute the Thai sauce over the meal, garnish with washed, hand-torn fresh dhania leaves. The meal is ready to go! Like any good curry, this meal cries out plaintively for chilled lager as an accompaniment. One’s good, two is better, three – and it’s safe to assume you’re not the designated driver.