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Main | The M&2V's Pickled Onions »

Mum's Vietnamese Chicken Salad

To call this ‘Mum’s Vietnamese salad’ is slightly misleading because (a) she isn’t Vietnamese and (b) she acquired the recipe from a friend called Jane many years ago. However, it has become a family favourite, which has morphed and evolved over the years, each of us adding our own details. And what makes a recipe your own, if not refining an old favourite to suit your tastes? Surely this is how all the best home recipes have been developed.

When I asked Mum to remind me of the recipe a few years back, I was surprised that she said she puts coriander in it. I once did that many years ago much to the distaste of my younger sister. She’d said she preferred it without and, being an annoying older sister, I decided to put it in anyway to see if she could tell. Of course she could, it's such a distinctive flavour. Now that I am much older, I can admit that she was right. It is more subtle and refined with just mint and that has become my preference.

My main addition to Mum’s recipe is that I have started pickling the onions rather than adding them fresh. I got the idea from Uyen Luu, who has a similar recipe in her cookbook, My Vietnamese Kitchen. I think it lifts the dish and makes it something really special.

Jane’s original recipe called for coconut vinegar, but this is very hard to find. My mum uses a tablespoon of coconut cream instead but I prefer to use a creamed coconut block. I simply grate what I need into the dressing and keep the rest of the block in the fridge for next time – it keeps for months, so it saves opening a tin of coconut cream to just use one spoon.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter. 


For the pickled red onion

1 red onion, finely sliced into half moons
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp white sugar
Pinch salt

For the salad

4 chicken legs, bone in, skin on (or 500g leftover roast chicken)
1L chicken stock
4cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
100ml fresh lime juice
5 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp white sugar, or to taste
2 tbsp creamed coconut, grated
1 small red chilli, finely chopped, to taste
1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed and finely chopped

To serve

Rice or vermicelli noodles, if serving as a main
Baby gem lettuce leaves
Cucumber, sliced
Peanuts, chopped


For the pickled red onions

Put the sliced red onion into a tupperware container, add the vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Seal the container and shake to mix. Set aside for at least one hour or until you are ready to use them.

For the salad

If using chicken legs, put in a large saucepan with the chicken stock, cover with a lid and place over a medium heat. When it comes to the boil reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for approximately 25 minutes. As the chicken is cooking, skim any scum off with a slotted spoon. When the chicken is cooked, remove from the stockpot and leave to cool. You can keep the stock to use in another recipe.

When the chicken is cool, pull off the skin and use your fingers or two forks to shred the meat. If using leftover roast chicken, do the same.

Put the grated ginger, lime juice, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and creamed coconut in a saucepan and gently warm through over a low heat.

The salad can either be served at room temperature or gently warmed. If you prefer room temperature, remove the dressing from the stove and add the chicken to the saucepan off the heat. If you prefer it warm, add the chicken while the pan is over the heat and gently warm through.

Just before serving, drain the pickled onions and add to the chicken mix, reserving a few for the garnish. Add the chilli and mint and mix thoroughly.

Garnish with chopped peanuts and the leftover pickled onions and serve alongside baby gem lettuce leaves and sliced cucumber.

If serving as a main, serve with rice or vermicelli noodles.

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Reader Comments (1)

I agree about the mint. I love the idea of pickled onions . I’ll try it out and report back xx

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMa

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