Summer’s heat is finally, lazily, starting to wane here in NW Florida; but it’s nowhere near stew season yet. And judging from recent reports, the rest of the US is experiencing some pretty hot weather, so you’re likely not ready to crank on the oven right now, either. So I think it’s the perfect time to share my Gỏi Gà (Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad) recipe.
Gỏi is the common salad dish in Southern Vietnam (called Nộm in Northern Vietnam), with Gỏi Gà, its chicken variety, being the most popular. While many shredded chicken salad recipes call for boiled chicken, I just can’t stomach the idea of boiling chicken – it seems like such an impersonal way to prepare meat, and it runs the risk of creating a dry, mealy texture.
I respect the reason why boiled chicken is used for shredding, as the water-saturated chicken is easy to break apart. But today, we’ll employ a technique I first learned in a restaurant job, nearly 20 years ago, to get the best of both worlds: we’ll grill the chicken to give it a nice crust and flavor, then dunk it in an ice water bath to cool. This has a secondary effect of preventing the grilled chicken from shrinking, making it a breeze to shred.
One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that nothing goes to waste. For example, we’ll fry up some shallots and garlic as a salad topping, then cool and use the oil to create the salad dressing – infused with toasted shallot and garlic flavor.
Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal)
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded (~1 lb)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~1 lb)
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup avocado oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp coconut palm sugar (honey okay)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 carrots, julienned
1 spicy red chile pepper (bird’s eye, fresno), seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 small handful cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 small handful mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1. Shred the cabbage and place it in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water and add a bit of salt; stir to combine, then set aside to soak for 20 minutes.
2. As the cabbage soaks, grill the chicken. Rub the breasts all over with olive oil, and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill and cook until slightly charred and cooked through, about 6 minutes, flipping every couple of minutes. Prepare a bowl of ice water and transfer the cooked chicken to the ice water bath; set aside to cool, about 5 minutes (or as long as you need to prepare the next step).
3. As the chicken soaks, heat the avocado oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes, then add the garlic. Stir-fry until golden, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, about 3 more minutes. Pour the oil into a bowl through a strainer, catching the shallots and garlic to drain; reserve the oil and set aside to cool, about 5 minutes.
4. When the oil has cooled, combine it with the lime juice, fish sauce, salt, white pepper, coconut palm sugar, and apple cider vinegar to make the dressing; taste and add salt if needed. Shred the chicken along the grain, using two forks, and set aside. Drain the cabbage and pat dry with paper towels.
5. Now comes the fun part – in a large bowl, combine the cabbage, chicken, carrots, chile pepper, cilantro, mint, and the salad dressing; toss to combine, add salt to taste, then serve topped with the fried shallots and garlic.
** If you can get your hands on some Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), add it with the other two herbs during step #5.