I love coconut in food. It's a flavour which, I think, both works well with other flavours and as a stand-alone ingredient. This salad uses both - the coconut milk which is mixed with various other Thai-inspired flavours and the shredded coconut, toasted and forming a major part of the overall meal.
I found this little harbinger of delight was a recipe found in Chelsea Winter's cookbook 'Scrumptious'. We altered it a trifle (I had run out of lemongrass, so used some makrut lime leaves instead, and we heated the shredded chicken back through in the sauce it had been poached in, making the overall dish not entirely cold). Also, we used pinenuts, as Mr 12 is allergic to peanuts, but you could use peanuts, or cashews.
350 - 500 g chicken breasts (I used 2 large)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp sesame (or peanut) oil
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 makrut lime leaves, central steam removed and finely sliced (or pound and chop one stalk of lemongrass)
2 tbsp ground cumin
400 ml coconut milk
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 - 3/4 cup pinenuts (or peanuts, cashews...)
100 g vermicelli noodles
2 cups chopped bok choy (or pak choy, spinach etc)
2 carrots, grated
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 cup coriander, chopped (leaves and stalks)
1 red chili, finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Heat oil in pot over medium heat. Cook onion, ginger, lime leaves and cumin for a few minutes until fragrant.
- Add the coconut milk and chicken, increase heat and bring to simmer. Simmer gently for about 8 minutes, turning chicken occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl with a lid (the chicken and the sauce). Put in the fridge until needed (this part can be done up to 2 days in advance).
- Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Toast the nuts and shredded coconut in a dry pan. Set aside when lightly browned.
- Put the noodles and bok choy in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave for a few minutes until cooked. Stir to separate the noodles, then drain.
- Bring chicken out and shred. Return, with the sauce, to a pot and heat through.
- Mix other salad ingredients and coconut/nuts with the noodles. Serve salad, topped with chicken and garnish with a little extra coriander.