A woman butchering live frogs. A platter of pig brains. Buckets squirming with live eels.
These were just some of the intriguing sights that I encountered as I pushed my way through a bustling Hanoi street market during a recent trip to Vietnam.
I was taking part in a cooking class through Viet Village restaurant. Our instructor, Hà, was guiding us through the market to pick up some fresh ingredients as part of the experience. My senses were overloaded with the sights, sounds, and smells of everything that surrounded me.
The ingredients we needed for the cooking class were a bit tame compared to other things you could find in the street market. In the end, our creations ended up being delicious. One of the dishes that we learned how to prepare was Goi ga, a crunchy chicken and cabbage salad tossed in a light, sweet and spicy dressing.
I substituted honey for sugar in the dressing, and garnished with cashews instead of peanuts to keep things Paleo. Here’s the method…
Start by spreading about a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast in a single layer in a pot and cover with a few inches of cold water. Add a large pinch of salt and a few peppercorns. Bring the pot to a simmer then cover and cook for about 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken breasts and, once cool, shred them with a fork.
To make the dressing, combine some water, fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, honey, minced Thai chili pepper, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Whisk until the honey and salt have dissolved.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken with some shredded cabbage, carrot, cucumber, onion, mint and cilantro. Pour in about half of the dressing and toss well. Let everything marinate for 5-10 minutes, then add additional dressing to taste.
Plate the salad and garnish with crushed roasted cashews and lime wedges. Enjoy! I think the end result is just as good as what I learned to make in Hanoi.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad (Goi ga)
For the Salad
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 4 cups cabbage finely shredded
- 1 large cucumber seeded and sliced
- 1 large carrot cut into matchsticks
- 1/2 cup onion thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup mint chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
- large pinch of salt
- 6-7 peppercorns
For the Dressing
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 garlic clove chopped
- 1 Thai chili seeded and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- crush roasted cashews
- lime wedges
For the Dressing
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until the honey and salt are completely dissolved.
For the Salad
Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a medium pot and cover with a few inches of cold water. Add the peppercorns and a large pinch of salt. Bring the water to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the chicken registers 165°F.
Remove the chicken, allow to cool, then shred with two forks.
Place the chicken and the remaining salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add about half the dressing and toss well. Let the salad stand for 5-10 minutes, then toss again, adding more dressing to taste.
Plate the salad, top with the cashews and garnish with lime wedges.