The heavy heat has arrived in the south of France! And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Air conditioning on, pool warm, kitchen closed. Unfortunately, my kitchen is never closed but there are definitely summer days when I want to put yellow crime tape around the room and shrug at my husband’s bewildered face – “Sorry, police say I can not enter. Too hot.”
The heat arrived abruptly this summer. Our May was lovely, sunny and pleasantly warm. Then one day – June 4th to be exact – we opened the door and July walked in, one month early. I remember the day because I was teaching a Thai cooking workshop and at 12:30 I ushered the ladies out to the terrace to begin feasting on their hard morning’s work. The first course they had prepared was a Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup. When we carried the soup out to the table I felt like we might as well be serving Eskimos an ice cream. I couldn’t tell which was hotter – the soup or the air around us. It was perhaps time to change the menu.
Next week I am teaching another Thai workshop and in this class we will be focusing more on salads. What I love about Thai salads is there is a punch of flavor in every bite. Fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables and hot, hot, hot – chilis that is! You can say goodbye to the oven for a few months and have your heat come in the form of a chili.
This salad is one I used to make years ago in yachting. For some reason I completely forgot about it until recently. I have gluten to thank for that. Since following the cleanse I have tried to avoid gluten as much as I can (Although when I buy a warm baguette for the family it is near impossible for me not to eat the whole thing as I drive home!). An occasional pasta (or half a baguette) is fine but if I can think of nice meals without gluten all the better. Enter the rice noodle – a nice way to incorporate pasta into a salad without the gluten.
I’ve included two different dressings for this salad which entirely change the flavor of the salad. Both are delicious, both are easy and with 2 dressings you can make a big batch of salad and eat it 2 days in a row and have it taste completely different. Brilliant, my dear Watson!
The second dressing (Sweet Chili & Lime) is definitely the naughtier of the 2 as sweet chili sauce is high in sugar but as long as you are not drinking it it’s allowed from time to time!
For the chicken:
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 large thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoon(45ml) soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
- 1 tablespoon(15 ml) tamarind concentrate
- 1 lime, juice only
- 2 tablespoons basil leaves, chopped
For the salad:
- 250g/9oz thin rice noodles
- 4 spring onions/scallions, finely sliced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1 red pepper, julienned
- ½ large head of napa cabbage, sliced
- 2 cups mung bean sprouts
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
- ½ cup peanuts, chopped
For the soy-lime dressing:
- 1½ limes, juice only
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon(15ml) dark soy sauce (can substitute tamari)
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) fish sauce
- 1-2 red chillies, seeds removed, finely chopped
Alternatively, for the Sweet Chili Dressing:
- 6 tablespoons(90ml) Sweet Chili Sauce
- 3 tablespoons(45 ml) Fish Sauce
- 3 tablespoons(45ml) Lime Juice
- 1½ tablespoons(22ml) Rice Wine Vinegar
- The zest of 1 lime
- Place the chicken into a ziploc bag. Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour over the chicken and mix well to coat then set aside in the fridge for at least one hour
- Place a large steamer over a large pan of water, place the chicken into the steamer, cover and steam for 5-6 minutes until just cooked through. Alternatively grill the chicken for about 5 minutes each side.
For the salad:
- For the salad, pour boiling water over the noodles and leave to soak for five minutes. Drain well.
- Toss the noodles with the vegetables and herbs.
- Thinly slice the chicken and toss it with the noodles.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients for whichever dressing you are preparing.
- Toss the salad with some of the dressing and half of the peanuts. Pour into a serving bowl and top with the remaining peanuts sprinkled on top. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.