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
chile peppers, seeded + minced
garlic clove, minced
sugar (I like using brown, but white works too)
unseasoned rice wine vinegar
lime juice, freshly squeezed
nuoc mam or nam pla (fish sauce)
black pepper to taste
For the salad
medium onion, thinly sliced
shredded, cooked chicken
red cabbage, shredded, soaked, rinsed and dried (see Step 2)
fresh mint, chopped or torn into pieces
fresh cilantro, chopped or torn into pieces
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.