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~ Thai-Style Chicken Salad w/Sweet Chili Vinaigrette ~

IMG_5395Mae Ploy brand sweet chili sauce, known in Thailand as "nam chim kai", "dipping sauce for chicken", is a staple in my refrigerator.  We use it as a dipping sauce for all sorts of things -- from lettuce wraps and spring rolls to deep-fried chicken wings, coconut shrimp and batter-dipped vegetables, almost everything tastes better with the sweet heat of this sauce.  Here in my kitchen, we affectionately refer to it as "the ketchup of Thailand."  Using it in conjunction with the right ratio of other Thai pantry staples renders a vinaigrette no store-bought brand can compete with.

IMG_5282A salad is only as good as the ingredients that go into it, and my Thai chicken salad is no exception. It starts with my Thai-Style Oven-Roasted Barbecued Chicken.  In the wide, wide world of food, almost every culture has a favorite way to serve grilled chicken. In Thailand, that would be gai yang.  Those are the Thai words for grilled chicken, more specifically a very small, whole or half chicken that's been marinated in a soy-and-fish-sauce- IMG_5327based coconut-creamy, cilantro-greeny mixture laced with fragrant lemongrass, ginger, garlic and scallions. Throughout Thailand, the recipe for gai yang does vary from cook-to-cook, but not very much.  In my Americanized version, the chicken emerges from the oven plump, juicy and melt-in-your mouth tender -- not to mention infused with authentic Thai flavors. Whenever I make it, 2-3 times a year, I make one extra -- to make this salad.  

Oh my Thai.  Sigh.  While I never make my salad without my special Thai BBQ chicken, if pressed to recommend a time-saving substitution (and I know some of you are going to ask), sans all of the wonderful flavor you'll be missing out on, head for a store-bought rotisserie bird.

To make 1 cup of my Peanutty Thai Sweet-Chili Vinaigrette:


1/2  cup Mae Ploy brand sweet chili sauce

2  tablespoons Golden Mountain brand Thai seasoning soy sauce

1  tablespoon Squid brand Thai fish sauce

1  tablespoon lime juice, fresh or high-quality bottled concentrate

1  tablespoon Jiff extra-crunchy peanut butter

2  teaspoons ginger paste

1  teaspoon garlic paste

2  tablespoons peanut oil

1  tablespoon sesame oil

2  tablespoons rice vinegar

~ Step 1.  Measure and place all ingredients, as listed, in a 1-2-cup measuring container with a tight fitting lid and a pourer top.  Shake vigorously until peanut butter is completely dispersed and has rendered the vinaigrette a slightly-creamy texture.  Peanut butter is a flavored-stabilizer.  Like Dijon mustard in a classic vinaigrette, it slows the inevitable separation process down.

To make two, hearty, main-dish Thai-style chicken salads:

IMG_53452 1/2-3 cups cooked chicken, removed from 1/2 of 1, 3 1/2-4-pound Thai-Style oven-roasted barbecue chicken (leg, thigh, breast & wing meat from half a chicken), crispy skin left on or removed (your choice), pulled into bite-sized chards and pieces or sliced into thin strips 

IMG_51301  whole head hearts-of-romaine, the "hearts" being the inner leaves from the typical bushy head (about 6-8 ounces total weight), leaves torn into small, bite-sized pieces or cut chiffonade-style (into 1/2" strips or ribbons), washed, dried (preferably through a salad spinner) and chilled until very crisp

3/4-1  cup store-bought broccoli slaw, a mixture of shredded broccoli, carrots and red cabbage

3/4-1  cup halved cherry tomatoes

3/4-1  cup peeled and peeled and diced Kirby cucumber, 1/2 of a cucumber

1/2-3/4  cup thinly-sliced green onion, tender white and light-green parts only

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves

1/2  cup chopped and lightly-roasted, unsalted peanuts

1/2-1  cup Peanutty Thai Sweet Chili Vinaigrette, from above recipe

IMG_5349 IMG_5349 IMG_5349 IMG_5349 IMG_5362 IMG_5362 IMG_5362 IMG_5395~Step 1.  In each of two salad plates, compose the salad by dividing, layering and arranging ingredients in the following order:  the romaine chiffonade briefly tossed together in each bowl with the broccoli slaw, followed by the sliced green onion and diced cucumber.  Pile on the pulled or sliced chicken pieces and grape tomatoes then generously garnish each salad with a sprinkling of cilantro leaves and roasted peanuts.  Drizzle on the vinaigrette and stick a fork in it ASAP.

Drizzle on the vinaigrette & give it a decent dose too...

IMG_5379... then stick a fork in it & eat this special Thai salad ASAP:

IMG_5412Thai-Style Chicken Salad w/Sweet Chili Vinaigrette:  Recipe yields 1 cup vinaigrette, and, 2, hearty, main-dish salads.

Special Equipment List:  1-2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid & pourer top; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler

IMG_6958Cook's Note:  Cold main- or side-dish pasta or noodle salads of the American type are not something I gravitate toward.  That said, serve me one bursting with Thai-Asian flavors, you don't have to call me twice to the table.  My recipe for ~ Cold 'Chicken Noodle Salad' w/Thai Peanut Sauce ~ is a delightful combination of lo-mein noodles with wisps of chicken, matchstick carrots and green onion scattered throughout.  It's lunch-box kid-tested and mother approved too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2024)


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