To start with, Happy New Year!
Following some very solid feasting throughout December, by January I felt as if I had lost my appetite. Not a lot of food was appealing to me, and conscious of the “healthy eating” mindset that tends to kick in around this time of year, I started racking my brains for ideas for salads that I would actually take pleasure in eating, and not just for the sake of trying to shoehorn in more greens. After a month of cheese, wine, mince pies, Christmas pudding and roast dinners (I could go on), it just seemed a bit rough to switch over to anything short of delicious. Which is when I turned to Gỏi Gà, one of my favourite salads of all time.
We had some great news that two of our friends are getting married this year in Vietnam, which got me to thinking about this dish. It’s a salad of chicken, cabbage and carrot, marinated in a zingy Vietnamese inspired dressing. I’ve recreated a version of how I remember Gỏi Gà below, using ingredients that I could obtain in UK shops. It’s also a great way to use up leftover chicken. For this salad, I usually boil the chicken breasts until tender (10 minutes or less) and then leave them to rest and cool before shredding, but it would also work with leftover roast chicken.
It does add extra work to deep-fry the shallots for the topping, but to make the dish as I remembered it I couldn’t skimp, and they truly are delicious. It’s the added crunch they give, creating an extra layer of texture. If you don’t have time or want a simpler version, just leave the shallots out. A tip I was given to make them crispy rather than soggy is to fry them twice.
GLUTEN-FREE COOKING NOTE: If you wish to make the recipe gluten-free, simply omit the tablespoon of flour used to coat the shallots and fry them straight up.
Serves 2 – 4.
Making the crispy shallot topping
To make the crispy twice-fried shallots, fill a heavy bottomed saucepan (suitable for deep-frying) one-third full with oil. Heat it over a medium heat to 135°C. Tip your flour into a bowl. Make sure the shallots are broken up into small pieces, and roll them lightly in the flour. Fry them for around 10 minutes until they turn golden. You may have to fry them in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Remove the shallots carefully using a metal slotted spoon, and place on paper kitchen towel to drain. Turn the heat up until the oil reaches a temperature of 180°C (no hotter). Fry them again for a matter of seconds, until they reach a golden brown. Don’t leave them in for too long or they will go a dark shade of brown and burn, which gives them a bitter taste. Remove using the metal slotted spoon, and place on paper kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil. Put to one side while you bring the rest of the dish together.
Making the salad
Place your chopped onion to soak in a bowl of very cold water for 20 minutes or so (to tone the raw onion flavour down), then drain.
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and mix together thoroughly. Leave it for 20 minutes or so to infuse.
Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl, and stir through the chicken. Pour the dressing over the top, and leave it to sit for 10 – 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. I like to let the dressing absorb into the salad before serving.
Top with crispy shallots and peanuts, and eat on the day of making.
And a photos from my last trip to Vietnam to set the scene, back in 2015…