Thai-Style Spicy Chicken, Banana Blossom, and Herb Salad (With Lots of Fried Things)

Tender chicken breast, banana blossom, and lots of fried aromatics are the stars of this flavor-packed Thai salad. [Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

This variation on a classic Thai chicken and banana blossom salad hits every note, with its accessible, clean flavors of tender poached chicken breast and crunchy banana blossom, rich fried shallots, garlic, and lemongrass, and a bright, bracing garlic, chili, and lime juice dressing.

Why this recipe works:

  • Poaching the chicken breast gently ensures tender, juicy meat.
  • Mixing the chicken with the dressing first allows it to absorb more moisture and flavor.
  • Fried shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and makrut lime leaves add layers of flavor to the salad.

Note: If possible, use smaller, sweeter Thai shallots and garlic for the recipe. If using Thai garlic, the skins can be left on the individual cloves when frying. Makrut lime leaves (also sold as kaffir lime leaves) can be found in Thai supermarkets. Fresh lemongrass can be found in most Asian markets, or some high-end Western supermarkets.

Thai chilies can vary in heat. Taste a tiny bit of your chilies before smashing and adjust the quantity accordingly. The dressing should be quite hot to balance out its sweetness. Palm sugar can be found in Thai markets. If unavailable, substitute with brown sugar.

Banana blossom can be found in East Asian or Indian grocery stores. If unavailable, you can also make this salad with thinly shaved cabbage.

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Thai-Style Spicy Chicken, Banana Blossom, and Herb Salad (With Lots of Fried Things)

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 4
Active time:1 hour
Total time:1 hour
Special equipment:mortar and pestle, wok
This recipe appears in: How to Make Thai Spicy Chicken, Banana Blossom, and Herb Salad

Ingredients

  • For the Chicken:
  • 1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast half
  • Kosher salt
  • For the Fried Aromatics:
  • 1/2 cup vegetable, canola, or peanut oil
  • 3 medium European shallots or 6 to 8 Thai shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup, see note above)
  • 4 large cloves standard garlic or 8 to 12 cloves Thai garlic, roughly smashed in a mortar and pestle (about 3 tablespoons, see note above)
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer leaves removed, pale lower 4 inches only, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1/4 cup, see note above)
  • 4 makrut lime leaves, stems discarded, sliced as thinly as possible (see note above)
  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts
  • For the Dressing:
  • 4 to 10 Thai chilies, roughly chopped (see note above)
  • 2 large cloves standard garlic, or 4 to 6 cloves Thai garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons palm sugar (see note above)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice from 2 limes, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed Thai chili powder (or red chili flakes), plus more to taste
  • For the Salad:
  • 1 banana blossom
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cliantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

Procedures

  1. 1

    For the Chicken: Place chicken in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Season well with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the chicken registers 145°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl and let stand until cool enough to handle. Discard bones and skin. Shred meat into 1- to 2-inch pieces and set aside.

  2. 2

    For the Fried Aromatics: Meanwhile, heat oil in a large wok over high heat until shimmering. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 2 minute. Quickly remove with a strainer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl.

  3. 3

    Repeat frying with garlic, followed by lemongrass, and lime leaves, adding each fried aromatic to the same bowl with the shallots. Season fried aromatics with salt and toss to combine.

  4. 4

    Add peanuts to oil, reduce heave to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove peanuts with a strainer or slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl to cool. Set aside 2 tablespoons oil and allow to cool. Discard remaining oil.

  5. 5

    For the Dressing: Add thai chilies and garlic to the bottom of a mortar and pestle. Add 1 tablespoon of palm sugar. Pound until a nearly smooth paste is formed (this will take a while, be patient). Add remaining 2 tablespoons palm sugar and pound until incorporated. Add fried peanuts and pound until roughly crushed. Add fish sauce, lime juice, and dried chilies and stir to incorporate.

  6. 6

    For the Salad: Fill a large bowl with 3 quarts of water and add 1/4 cup of vinegar. Lay a clean kitchen towel or a layer of sturdy paper towels over the top. Peel off the tough outer later of banana blossom's leaves and discard. Split banana blossom in half lengthwise, then using a sharp chef's knife or a mandoline, slice crosswise as thin as possible. Immediately transfer sliced banana blossom to the bowl and lay the towel over it to keep it submerged. When ready to add to the salad, remove towel and carefully skim off and discard the tiny sliced buds (it's ok if a few of them remain). Dry sliced banana blossom on a clean kitchen towel or in a salad spinner and proceed.

  7. 7

    Add shredded chicken to the bottom of a large bowl. Add the dressing and reserved frying oil and toss to incorporate. Massage the chicken, gently loosening its fibers with your fingers. Add the chopped cilantro, mint, and banana blossom and toss to combine. Reserve two tablespoons mixed fried aromatics and add the rest to the bowl with the salad. Toss to combine, then taste and adjust flavor with more fish sauce, lime juice, or dried chilies as necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with remaining fried aromatics, and serve immediately.

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