We met our friends Sara and Erik for a picnic in the park recently, and after about 45 minutes, we were surprised by a sudden thunderstorm and were forced to pack up our goodies and flee in all different directions. But just before the heavens opened, I managed to try a forkful of a delicious chicken and rice noodle salad Sara had prepared. She and Erik have recently cut out gluten, and she’s experimenting with a whole new slate of ingredients. Crisp vegetables, tender noodles and morsels of chicken were all cloaked in a zippy dressing spiked with lime juice, fish sauce and a hint of Sriracha, then showered with finely sliced mint and basil. As soon as we were home and dry, I asked Sara to email me the recipe, and this is my version. —Merrill Stubbs
4 to 6
Marinating the chicken
1 1/2 tablespoons
light brown sugar
chili garlic sauce
Sriracha (more to taste)
cloves garlic, crushed
medium chicken thighs on the bone, with the skin on
scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
shredded Savoy cabbage
thinly sliced sugar snap peas (sliced on the diagonal)
red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
clove garlic, minced
rice wine vinegar
light brown sugar
toasted sesame oil
pad thai rice noodles
fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
In a wide, shallow bowl or other container, stir together the lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, Sriracha and garlic, making sure to dissolve the brown sugar. Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat the pieces thoroughly. Cover and marinate for 3 to 6 hours in the refrigerator.
Combine all of the prepared vegetables (leaving out the herbs) in a large bowl. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature while you make the rest of the salad.
To make the dressing, whisk together the lime juice, garlic, rice wine vinegar, Sriracha, brown sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, walnut oil and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Taste and add more salt if you like. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Toss the vegetables with a couple pinches of sea salt.
When the water is boiling, break the noodles in half and drop them into the pot. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, until they’re tender but still have a little bite. Drain the noodles and run them under cold water for a minute or two to cool them and keep them from getting gummy. Drain them again and add to the bowl with the vegetables.
Heat a grill or a grill pan to medium heat. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and sprinkle each lightly with salt on all sides. Start the thighs fat-side down on the grill, cooking for 7 minutes, until the fat is crisp and charred. Flip the thighs and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes (slice into one with a sharp knife to check that there isn't any pink remaining). Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the grill and set it aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
When the thighs are cool enough to handle, cut the meat off the bones and then slice it crosswise, so that each slice includes a little strip of charred, crispy fat.
Toss the vegetables and noodles with about two thirds of the dressing, and taste a noodle. Add more dressing if you like. Fold in the chicken and the herbs and serve. If you want to make this ahead of time, or if you end up with leftovers in the fridge, I recommend warming the salad gently before serving (cold rice noodles can get quite stiff). You can either warm the salad for 30 to 45 seconds in the microwave, or put it in a large sauté pan over medium low heat, tossing frequently, until it starts to loosen and warm, about 5 minutes.