Salads for dinner. I’m all for it. We’re not talking lettuce heavy, wimpy salads. We’re talking big, bulked up salads: seasonal fruit, meat, punchy dressing, the whole shebang. A salad that can double as a meal in itself. And that can only happen (for me) if there’s enough substance in here to qualify that.
A lot of good things going on here: there’s the vinegary chilli kick from sambal oelek, sweetness from mangoes, saltiness from soy and fish sauce, freshness from cucumbers and herbs. The dressing (a riff on the Vietnamese classic, nước chấm) also has lime, jaggery and rice vinegar. A Vietnamese-Thai hybrid you could say. Sweet and sour elements again but from a completely different set of ingredients.
The chicken in question–I don’t even have to say it at this point–is thigh meat. For good reason: they stay moist and succulent in the oven as they bake. (Alternatively, you could also use a grill pan or a regular pan for this; whatever the method, just make sure to get those char marks on them though.)
If you’d like to bulk this salad up a bit more, rice vermicelli noodles would be a great addition here.
SPICY SAMBAL OELEK CHICKEN & MANGO SALAD
- 500 grams boneless chicken thighs
- 1 ½ tablespoons sambal oelek (see notes)
Rest of the salad:
- 1 medium mango, cubed
- 1 small avocado, cubed
- 1 small cucumber
- ¼ cup mint leaves
- ¼ cup coriander leaves
- 2 teaspoons soy
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons jaggery/sugar
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 200 C.
- Toss the chicken pieces with sambal oelek and salt. Lay them out on a large baking tray without overlaps. Do this in two trays if necessary.
- Roast for 30 mins on the top rack of your oven, or until nicely browned. (Alternatively, you can pan-fry the chicken).
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, slice into bite-sized strips.
- Mix together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning. You’ll almost always need more of one or more seasonings here. Adjust to suit your palate.
- Slice the cucumber lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Slice into half moons. Place the cucumber, mango, avocado, mint, and coriander leaves in a bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the top and gently toss with your hands. Taste and adjust seasoning again.
- To serve, toss the chicken through the salad or serve alongside the salad.