Burmese salads are perfect for the free spirit because they allow you to pick what goes in your salad to the very detail. The sky is your limit and your tongue is the best judge. Even something as simple as chicken salad gives you the freedom to make choices from wonderful array of components.
Start with the basics and subtle flavors then tweak to your personal taste till you find the Zing. Add a pinch of this, a dash of that, few drops of these, few grinds of those. You can be playful but be smart with shapes and sizes you cut your ingredients into because texture dictates the timing they release their flavors and integrate with others.
Whenever shopping for chicken, I always get them bone-in and skin-on because, first, this is how I grew up knowing as the only way to buy chicken, second, it’s wallet-friendly and last, skins and bones carry lots of flavors. In this recipe, you can use the meat as a salad base, skins for garlic oil and bones as a broth for palate-cleansing soup!
Choose the fatty dark meat because you don’t want the star of the dish itself to be dry and lifeless. For vegetables, opt for unique textural and flavor contrast so that they do not dominate but enhance and compliment each other. A good crisp from cucumber, notes of freshness from cilantro, a burst of sweetness from tomato, pleasantly sharp bites of shallots and a kick of heat from fresh chilies, all together will ensure that this salad has cast a full ensemble of superstar ingredients.
Now, to elevate just a pile of chicken and greens on a plate into a blockbuster chicken salad, you need right proportions of fat, salt and acid in a form of dressing. This is when garlic oil, fish sauce and lime juice come into light. Garlic oil lends toastiness and fragrance. Pungent fish sauce gives a jolt of umami flavor. And, the lime acts as a bright balance to the fat and the salt.
Both light and vibrant, instead of making your heart skip a beat, this will make it feel warm and cared for.
Serving: 2-3 persons
Prep Time: 1 hour
For boiling the chicken
- 3 bone-in chicken thighs, skins and fats removed
- 1 lemongrass stalk
- ½ inch ginger
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 shallot, quartered
- 1½ tsp. salt
For garlic oil
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- Skins and fats from the chicken thighs
For salad assembly
- 1 cucumber, julienned
- ½ tomato, diced or julienned
- ½ shallot, julienned
- ½ cup julienned Asian cabbage
- Few bunches of cilantro, chopped
- Few fresh chilies, chopped
- Lime juice from ½ lime
- 3 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ½ cup peanuts, roughly crushed
1. Boiling the chicken
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
- Add the chicken, lemongrass, ginger, peeled garlic cloves, quartered shallots and salt to the boiling water.
- Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
- When the chicken is fork-tender, remove from the pot and let it cool.
- Add chopped green onions and vegetable of your choice to the broth to serve on the side as soup.
2. Preparing chicken-flavored garlic oil
- Cut the chicken skin and fat from 3 chicken thighs into smaller pieces and sauté them slowly over low heat until the skins begin to brown.
- Add the minced garlic and continue frying on low heat until golden and fragrant.
- Separate the garlic flakes from oil.
3. Assembling the chicken salad
- Cut the boiled chicken into 1/4inch strips.
- Toss the chicken with all the chopped, julienned vegetables.
- Season with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and 3 tbsp. of garlic oil.
- Mix well and taste the salad over and over to adjust seasoning to your personal liking.
- Sprinkle with semi-crushed peanuts and crispy garlic flakes.
Burmese language lesson
- Kyet-Thar -> Chicken meat
- Thoke -> Salad