This salad is my riff on a banana flower salad my local pho restaurant serves. The banana flower has a slightly bitter and astringent quality. It's julienned in the salad and combined with shredded chicken and pink grapefruit. The whole dish is dressed with a tangy and herbaceous dressing, which makes it a sprightly accompaniment to a bowl of pho. I wanted to make a similar salad using green mango. Green mango is tart but not bitter and has just a little astringency; with a little tweaking of the flavor of the dressing, it works beautifully in this salad. The result is a fresh and lively dish that's perfect on its own as a light meal or paired with a Southeast Asian curry or noodle dish.
This recipe calls for rau ram, a Vietnamese herb, that has oblong leaves marked with a chevron shape (sometimes subtle, so look closely). It can be found in Asian markets and has a fresh, grassy, cilantro-like flavor. It can also be called Vietnamese mint. If you can't find it, just add additional mint and basil to the recipe or use cilantro instead. —hardlikearmour
Test Kitchen Notes
This is a bright and umami packed salad. That marriage of flavor components doesn't always happen, but in this case it worked very well.
This recipe has quite a few steps and calls for speciality ingredients that can be difficult to find (rau ram!). I live near several Asian markets where I shop regularly and could not find neither Thai basil ( which is usually available ) nor rau ram. The substitutions provided work great and all of steps in the recipe are important. The finished product is an incredibly different and delicious chicken salad. And we can all use one of those! —Annie stader
2 to 4
For the salad:
boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 3/4 pound
peanut oil, plus more for brushing chicken breasts
lightly packed mint leaves
lightly packed Thai or regular basil leaves
lightly packed rau ram leaves
firm (unripe) mangoes
1/4 to 1/3 cups
chopped roasted peanuts, divided
Additional mint, basil, and/or rau rum for garnish (optional)
For the dressing:
palm or brown sugar
Thai red chile, seeded and finely minced
freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Place an oven rack about 6 inches below the broiler, and preheat the broiler to 400º F. Pat the chicken breasts dry and coat them with peanut oil. Place them onto a broiler pan. Broil on one side for 6 to 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Flip and broil on the other side for an additional 4 to 8 minutes, until the internal temperature at the thickest part is 160 to 165º F. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate, and allow to cool to room temperature.
Set up a bowl of ice water near the sink, making sure a strainer will nest in it. Add the salt to 1 quart of water and bring to a boil in a wide-rimmed saucepan. Place the mint, basil, and rau ram into a stainer and place the strainer into the boiling water, making sure all of the leaves are submerged. After 15 seconds, drain the herbs into the strainer and transfer the strainer to the ice bath. After a few seconds, remove the strainer from the ice bath and squeeze the excess water from the herbs. Mince the herbs and place them in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil and mix well. Set the bowl aside.
Start to make the dressing. In a small bowl that fits your strainer, combine the shallot, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chile, black pepper, and salt. Set strainer over the bowl. Supreme the grapefruit into the strainer, so you catch the juice. Squeeze the membrane to extract as much juice as possible. Set aside.
Prepare the rest of your salad. Using a sharp paring knife, peel your mangoes. Use either a julienne peeler (preferred) or the large holes on your box grater to carefully remove the flesh from the mango. Julienne or grate the mango into the medium bowl with the herb mixture. Toss with a fork to thoroughly mix. Add the grapefruit segments, but don't toss yet.
Whisk the dressing and taste for balance—it should be mildly tangy, just a bit sweet, and fairly salty. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken into a small bowl. Add the dressing to the chicken and toss well to coat.
Dump the chicken and dressing into the mango-herb mixture. Toss well to combine. Break the grapefruit up into chunks as you mix. Allow the salad to rest for at least 15 minutes, or up to 1 hour, to allow the flavors to meld together. When ready to serve, taste and add salt or pepper as needed. Add about half of the chopped peanuts and mix well. If adding additional herbs as garnish, chiffonade the desired combination of the mint, basil, and rau ram. Plate the salad, and garnish with the remaining peanuts and herbs.
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.