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Author Notes: A friend invited us over for a K-Mex (that's Korean plus Mexican) dinner recently, and this salad was one of the highlights of the meal (never mind that the theme was Korean-Mexican, not Vietnamese-Mexican.) It's crunchy, salty, tangy, fishy, sweet and perfumed with mint and cilantro. It's just as good without chicken as with, and if you don't have carrots, substitute daikon, or don't even sweat it. If you can your hands on the Thai variety, basil is a fantastic addition as well. —mtrelaun
- 2 chile peppers, seeded + minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons sugar (I like using brown, but white works too)
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 3 tablespoons nuoc mam or nam pla (fish sauce)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- black pepper to taste
For the salad
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
- 4 cups red cabbage, shredded, soaked, rinsed and dried (see Step 2)
- 1 cup carrot, shredded
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped or torn into pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped or torn into pieces
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped or torn into pieces (OPTIONAL)
- Combine chiles, garlic, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, and oil in a bowl. Add pepper to taste. Taste again. Every now and then I find I need to add a little more of this or that to get the right balance. Toss in sliced onion and allow to stand for 30 mn.
- Soak and rinse shredded cabbage a couple of times to remove bitterness. Taste a piece of cabbage to test. It may take more than two soak/rinse cycles to remove the bitterness. Casually dry the cabbage (it doesn't have to be bone dry, but it shouldn't be soaking wet either.)
- In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken, casually dried cabbage, carrots, mint and cilantro.
- Sprinkle vinaigrette and onions over chicken/cabbage mixture, and toss well.