Friday, December 20, 2013

Vietnamese Style Chicken Cabbage Salad

Since moving to Houston, I have been trying as many exciting restaurants as possible to expose myself to interesting food. The only place I have visited more than once1 because of how amazing it is, has been Chris Shepherd's Underbelly. With its locally sourced produce, in-house butchery, and amazing mix of American and Vietnamese styles of food, it's an instant classic. In so many ways it reminds me of the first time I heard Girl Talk2. I thought it would be complete mess having two very distinct things coming together but somehow it just worked. I'm being serious when I say I haven't tasted anything unimpressive at Underbelly. If presented the chance to go, fucking take it or you'll regret it.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a recipe for a dish I had never seen on the menu. It's super simple and quite light but packs a big punch, not unlike Pacquiao. This is in no small part due to the massive amount of fish sauce in the dressing. A lot of people not acquainted with fish sauce don't realize how truly delicious it is. Shit, think about the first time you smell it, it smells like you just walked into a triple homicide on CSI; the smell is simply foul. But somehow, the taste is just so pleasant and pure umami3. Balancing it out with the sugar and the vinegar really gives you an amazing dressing that goes incredibly with cabbage and chicken.

I personally like this salad completely cold so I make the chicken ahead of time and leave it in the fridge so its good to go. I also brine my chicken to ensure it's moist but this step can be skipped if in a hurry or if you simply distrust the brine. I understand, brine never got you back for that beer you got him, what a douche.

Adapted from Chris Shepherd's recipe.
Qty Ingredient Procedure
3 cups cold water
  1. Start the chicken by combining the salt, sugar, and water to create your brine. Put it in a container big enough to hold your chicken and the brine. Put the chicken in the brine and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Much longer than this and your chicken may end up being saltier than Kanye after Taylor Swift won best female video4.
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 chicken breasts
1 cup water
  1. While your chicken is brining, the dressing can be made. Combine the water, vinegar, and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and shut off. Add the fish sauce, sambal, and chopped clove of garlic. At this point your dressing is done but it will be warm. If you want to eat immediately, put the dressing in a Tupperware container and put it in an ice bath to cool it off quickly. If you're not in a rush, refrigerate the dressing and it should be cool within a few hours. Regardless of how you cool it down, the dressing should last about a week refrigerated.
  2. Once the dressing is made, the chicken can be started. I like to pan fry mine and finish in the oven (medium high heat to get a nice brown crust, finishing in a 400°F oven for about 15-20 minutes until the internal temp is 165F). You can put this on the grill, your George Foreman, or simply bake it. Doesn't really matter how you make it because it ends up getting shredded anyways. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before shredding.
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp rice vinegar
5 tbsp fish sauce
2.5 tbsp sambal
1 clove of garlic
1 medium sized cabbage5
  1. While your chicken is going, shred the cabbage and the carrots.
  2. Toss together the cabbage/carrot mixture in some of the dressing (you will not need it all) and a light drizzle of olive oil(optional). Top with pulled chicken.
2-3 carrots

  1. I have unfortunately been to Jack in the Box multiple times since moving to Houston. I don't consider it a restaurant experience because every trip there involves some amount of Olde English being consumed.  
  2. The Hood Internet is still the greatest mashup artist of all time.  
  3. Umami is the 5th taste after sweet, sour, salt, and bitter and is savory in nature. Pure umami comes in the form of MSG which most people associate with mall Chinese food but is commonly used prepared food such as canned soups. Educate yourself fool. 
  4. Imma let you finish but this reference is still funny. 
  5. Not into shredding your own cabbage? A bag of coleslaw mix will do you just fine. 

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