Vietnamese Mint & Coriander Salad with Red Onion Pickle & Chicken Rice

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I adapted this dish just very slightly from a recipe by Uyen Luu. I didn’t have any hot mint, so I picked some regular mint from the garden and mixed it with coriander for the salad. I gather that the chicken thighs are meant to have bones and skin, though you remove these at the end. The ones I used were boneless and skinless and they worked out fine too.

The flavours are hot, sour and salty. This dish could be adapted for kids by making a separate dipping sauce without the chilli. Kids might also prefer the dish without the salad on top (more fool them) or completely deconstructed. For more on deconstructing dinner, see this post from Dinner: A Love Story.

Chicken
3 chicken thighs
1.2 litres of water
1 chicken stock cube

Put chicken thighs and water in a pot with a lid and bring to the boil. When the water starts bubbling skim off the froth, then add the stock cube. Leave the chicken to poach for a total of 30 minutes.

Pickled Onion
1 red onion
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
pepper

Next, combine the vinegar and sugar in a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. While the liquid cools, slice the onion thinly and toss with a pinch of salt and some pepper in a bowl. Reserve that end of the onion that you couldn’t slice without cutting yourself  for the rice (see below). When the vinegar and sugar mixture has cooled, pour it over the onions and mix through. Leave to pickle.

Rice
200g basmati rice
1 clove garlic
10g red onion
350ml chicken stock (from poaching chicken)
1 tbsp coconut oil

Wash the rice in plenty of water to remove excess starch, then drain. Dice the remnants of the onion with a clove of garlic, then sweat in a heavy pot on low heat with the coconut oil. Add the rice and stir to coat it with oil. Take 350ml of the poaching liquid from the chicken and pour it into the rice. Cover with a lid so it cooks by absorption, which takes 15 to 20 minutes.

Dipping Sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
10g ginger
1 birdseye chilli
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chicken stock (from poached chicken)

Dice the ginger, garlic and chilli and mix it with the fish sauce, vinegar and sugar. Slosh in a couple of tablespoons of the poaching liquid to tie the flavours together and extend the sauce.

Salad
15-20 mint leaves
5-10 stems coriander

Dash outside in the dark to pick your herbs with the flashlight you downloaded on your iphone. Gasp and try not to retch when you tread on a slug. Pick the mint leaves off the stems but keep the coriander on the stem.

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After 30 minutes the chicken should be cooked. Remove from liquid and rest for 10 minutes (or as long as you can wait). Make sure you keep that leftover stock for another day.

Chop the herbs into a rough salad, then tear the chicken along the grain, discarding any unappetising bits. Serve rice, chicken, salad and pickles with dipping sauce on the side.

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