Sunday, April 02, 2006

Salad Days at WHB#26 - Chicken, Mint & Glass Noodles Salad with Pine Nuts

Sometimes the best intentions are foiled by the whims of fate. Earlier in the week, I had made a Hainanese Chicken Rice for an article for Paper Palate (which I might post here in the end instead now) and had so much leftover that I was contemplating all sorts of ways to use up the deliciously flavoured chicken.

A massive bag of mint slowly wilting in my refrigerator inspired me to concoct a pseudo Thai-Vietnamese-Hainanese-and-all-Mana Makanese chicken, mint and glass noodle salad for lunch. I’d wanted to share this with 3A Gurl but with her dietary requirement which disallows cold food, she would not have been able to enjoy this. My challenge was to make the chicken, mint and glass noodles such that I could transport it to her house and reinvent it into a hot soup dish for her.

I spent some time pondering this and came up with the idea of making a giant batch of the salad (for me), heating up some of my prawn stock and adding this to the salad for a soupy version for 3A Gurl.

The culinary mission began well enough until I started assembling my mise en place. And realised I had run out of peanuts. How could I be so daft? What kind of chicken, mint and glass noodles salad would it be without peanuts? I was crushed. I had the option of substituting pistachios or pine nuts. Should it now be pseudo Thai-Vietnamese-Hainanese-and all Mana Makanese with a Middle Eastern mystic or with an Italian flavour? I decided on pine nuts … I rather liked the cheekiness of mixing Asian with Italian.

Making the salad was fairly easy and the only work was really in dicing and slicing and stopping myself from picking at the pine nuts as I toasted them. I made enough to fill a Glad casserole container and was getting ready to heat up my prawn broth when I remembered that 3A Gurl is also allergic to prawns. Groaning in despair, I began assembling some chicken bones and started a quick chicken stock instead.

As usual, I just kept adding and adjusting the ingredients as I cooked and tasted so the measurements given below are guesstimations. I strongly advice you to taste and adjust too as you go.

Chicken, Mint & Glass Noodles Salad with Pine Nuts

½ Hainanese Chicken Rice chicken, skin removed and shredded
- if you do not have this, you can always use a grilled or poached chicken

2 cups mint, shredded
2 tbsp coriander, shredded

1 packet of glass noodles, which is about 2 ½ cups when softened

1 cup lettuce, shredded
- 1 very large chilli, minced
(mine was quite mild to my great disappointment and I did not dare add more as 3A Gurl has a sensitive stomach but next time, I will use 2-3 chilli padis for extra heat)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- ½ tbsp white wine
- 1 tbsp lemonade (OK, OK, I meant to use lemon juice but realised I ran out at the last minute, which is why I added the white wine to give it more bite)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 2 dashes of ground black pepper

½ cup toasted pine nuts

1. Bring a pot of water to a furious boil and pour that over the glass noodles while you shred the chicken

2. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and taste to see if you need to adjust the flavouring – it should be sweet, piquant and spicy

3. Drain the glass noodles and add the shredded chicken, mint, coriander, lettuce and toss well

4. Add the sauce and toss to mix well

5. Toast the pine nuts till slightly golden and sprinkle on top of the salad

6. Serve cold

Unfortunately, at this point, the migraine that I battled with last week returned with a vengeance. As if royally pissed off that I had the audacity to medicate it away, it came back and bitch slapped me for my impudence. I had just finished reducing the chicken stock and was testing it with a small bowl of the salad when my left temple was hit by a Sherman tank. I knew it was not the soup as it actually tasted rather good although I thought I needed to add some ground coriander and salt to it.

Staggering to my bed, I had to make the call to 3A Gurl to give lunch a rain check. The salad was packed away as I sought the familiar comfort of my bed in the hopes that the migraine will pass.

I did not have a chance to enjoy my salad till later that evening. And a good thing it was too as the flavours had had time to marry and commingle wantonly by then. It was fresh, uplifting and incredibly healthy. Notice I only used ½ tsp of oil in the entire dish?

The rich, garlicky and intense flavours of the Hainanese Chicken Rice chicken gave depth to the dish and was wonderfully enhanced by the exuberance of the mint. The coriander gave the salad a calming counterbalance while the chilli imparted a mild heat. The smokey milkiness of the pine nuts was a textural and flavoursome surprise that added another dimension to the salad. Each bite was like a date with a capricious woman. Hot one moment and instantly cold the next. You were simultaneously seduced and left wanting while wallowing in the euphoria of heady enchantment. It was complex yet exuded a simple freshness that belied its grown-up elegance. I was thoroughly in its thrall.

I truly think this is one of my favourite salads now. It’s true I find myself making Indochinese style salad more often than not but this beats even my favourite yum woon sen. I give this a 10/10 for taste and would not hesitate to make it again and again. I also bestow a 10/10 on this delightful salad for health because just eating it imbued me with a sense of well being.

While I have nothing to say about mint that no one else already knows, I think my unfettered use of this aromatic herb in the salad warrants its entry in Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging.


Blogger fooDcrazEE said...

aiyaiyaiyaiyai.......simple and delish.....

7:47 pm  
Anonymous mae said...

Sounds and looks delicious. Almost everyone's cooking up some noodles in the blogosphere... ok, there's 3 of you so far but hey, i love noodles and haven't made any in a while. This might be a sign...

8:19 pm  
Blogger Kalyn said...

I really love the sound of this. Brilliant idea to sub the pine nuts. They are so good in everything. Sorry to hear the migraine is still not gone. Hope it will get better soon.

9:19 pm  
Blogger stacey said...

Ooo this looks really good. I love glass noodles.... and with chicken and mint... oh yes.

11:17 am  
Blogger Riana said...

Yum, I am going to make this for lunch today, great idea! Hope that you are feeling better soon :)

3:20 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Foodcrazee - It was! I really enjoyed it!

Mae - I call it the cosmic foodwave. It happens quite a bit I've noticed. Hey, make some noodles and post it then!

Kalyn - Loved your pine nut and thyme brown rice too! And the migraine keeps coming and going .. sigh.

Stacey - that was what I was saying too ... yes, baby, yes ... was so sad when I finished the salad!

Hey Riana! Thanks so much for visiting and your kind words! I hope you do and post it too. Cheers!

8:25 pm  
Blogger Riana said...

It was so yummy that I had it twice!!!!!!

1:21 am  
Blogger MM said...

LOL, Riana .. good for you! I've been thinking about it too - it is just too addictive, isn't it? Any pictures to share?

1:58 am  

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