In a sort of convoluted story, this used to be a curried chicken salad. But, then it went a new direction. The short version of the story is, several years ago I was in Norway with my family and we happened to have an extra roast chicken sitting around (this is the sort of thing that happens in my family. We also sometimes have extra racks of roast ribs or piles of fish cakes - last minute dinner menu changes, you see. Sometimes, of course, we just eat multiple dinners at once instead of leaving leftovers. Anyway...). I decided to improvise a simple curried chicken salad out of it for everyone to have for lunch. None of the others there had ever had anything like it. It was a complete hit, and was immediately considered by my family to be one of my signature dishes, frequently requested ever since. But, the most recent time I went to make "my" curried chicken salad, I got sidetracked from the spice cabinet by my bottle of sriracha. I decided to spice the salad with that instead. This naturally led to a progression of other changes, some swapping of herbs, adding other flavors like fish sauce, taking out the dried fruits and replacing them with chopped vegetables and so on. The end result? Another total hit.
Some other notes, this is completely delicious piled atop lightly dressed (with oil and lime juice) salad leaves or in sandwich form on crusty bread. Or you can eat it on it's own straight from the bowl, which I'm all for. Sometimes I just roast up a pile of chicken legs instead of a whole chicken - I much prefer legs to breast because they're so much meatier. Oh, and since I'm thinking about it, given the weather today, if it's way too hot to cook, a rotisserie chicken is entirely acceptable in place of roasting the chicken yourself. —fiveandspice
approximately 2-lb. chicken, roasted by your preferred method (I use Barbara Kafka's high heat method)
grated fresh ginger
dashes of fish sauce
each, minced Thai basil and fresh cilantro
scallion, finely sliced
finely chopped sweet bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow)
chopped sugar snap peas
seeded and finely chopped English cucumber (peel left on)
After the chicken has been roasted, let it cool to room temperature (in the meantime, take off the crispy skin and hand it out to all those waiting for lunch as something splendid to nibble on). Once cool, remove the meat from the bones and use your fingers to shred it all into bite-sized pieces. (Save the carcass for making stock, of course!) Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and toss with a couple of pinches of salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, rice vinegar, 1 Tbs. sriracha, ginger, fish sauce, basil, cilantro and scallion. Pour this dressing over the chicken and toss. Taste and if you'd like more heat and flavor (you know you do), add the second Tbs. of sriracha and toss again.
Add the bell pepper, snap peas, and cucumber and toss until everything is well coated with the dressing. Taste and add additional salt or fish sauce to taste.
Serve over a bed of lettuce sprinkled with finely chopped, toasted peanuts if you can eat nuts. Or, go all banh mi style, and stuff the salad into sliced baguettes along with some smashed avocado and some more cilantro and cucumber slices.
This salad will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, but you will likely have to stir it up again before serving to reincorporate the juices from the cucumber that accumulate.
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.