My dad picked out this recipe for us to make for Father's Day dinner, and it turned out to be really delicious! Crunchy lettuce is the perfect cup to hold tender rice noodles, ginger-lemongrass chicken, and lots of fresh herbs. Midway through eating this salad, we did decide it was lacking a little "something," and chopped roasted peanuts turned out to be the perfect addition - they add a toasty crunch that definitely elevates the dish. I'd also recommend using Thai chiles or another super spicy chile if you can find them - we substituted jalapenos because of availability, and while the dressing was yummy, I think it was lacking a little oomph that a spicy chile would have added. Overall, though, this was a really tasty dish that we all enjoyed! It was fairly easy to pull together, although there is a lot of chopping involved. If I were making this again, I think I might make the chicken the night before so that the whole dish is served cold rather than warm - although I liked the salad on Father's Day evening, I thought it was even better for lunch the next day!
Thai Ginger Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups (adapted from Bon Appetit)
2 Thai chiles, minced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp plus 1 T minced fresh ginger, divided
1 small garlic clove, minced
6 ounces rice stick noodles (maifun)
1/2 to 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
2 T finely chopped shallot
1 T minced fresh lemongrass, from the peeled bottom 4 inches of stalk
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Large butter lettuce leaves
Chopped roasted peanuts, to garnish
1. Make the dressing. Whisk together the chiles, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, 2 tsp of the ginger, and the garlic, until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, and then cook the noodles for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Toss with about a quarter of the dressing.
3. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and stir for a minute. Add the remaining tablespoon of ginger, along with the shallot and lemongrass. Saute until the chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
4. Toss the chicken with half the herbs and about a quarter of the dressing.
5. Place lettuce leaves on four plates. Top each lettuce leaf with some of the noodles and then some of the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with remaining herbs and dressing at the table. Garnish with chopped peanuts.