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Grilled Asian Chicken Salad

Variations on this salad are served all over Southeast Asia, but especially in Vietnam and Thailand, where fish sauce is a pantry staple. Peppery, lemony Thai basil is increasingly available, but if you can’t find it, use regular European basil. You can also use Italian vermicelli in place of the thin Asian soba (buckwheat) or somen (wheat) noodles. Cook the noodles while the chicken is grilling or even afterward since the salad is as good at room temperature as it is warm.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup slivered fresh Thai basil or regular sweet basil
  • 1/4 cup slivered fresh mint
  • 2 Tbs. Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and quartered lengthwise
  • 3/4 lb. soba or somen noodles or Italian vermicelli
  • 1/4 cup sliced radishes

Directions:

Use the palm of your hand to flatten each chicken breast to an even thickness of about 3/4 inch. Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together 1/3 cup of the green onions, the oil, lime juice, basil, mint, fish sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes and garlic. Pour about one-third of the marinade into a shallow nonreactive dish just large enough to hold the chicken; reserve the remaining marinade to use as the salad dressing. Add the chicken to the dish and turn to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate, turning once or twice, for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling. Add the green and yellow bell peppers to the marinade during the last 15 minutes.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Oil the grill rack. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

For a charcoal grill: Grill the chicken over the hottest part of the fire, turning once or twice, until firm to the touch and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes total. About halfway through the grilling time, place the bell peppers along the edges of the grill where the heat is less intense. Grill, turning once or twice, until the peppers are softened and lightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes total.

For a gas grill: Grill the chicken directly over the heat elements, turning once or twice, until firm to the touch and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes total. About halfway through the grilling time, place the bell peppers on an area with lower heat. Grill, turning once or twice, until the peppers are softened and lightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes total.

While the chicken and peppers are grilling, or after they are done, bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and boil until al dente, about 8 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain well. Transfer to a bowl, add the reserved marinade and toss well.

Cut the bell peppers lengthwise into narrow strips, and cut the chicken against the grain into thin strips. If you are serving the salad immediately, add the chicken, bell peppers, the remaining 1/3 cup green onions and the radishes to the noodles, toss well and serve. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Grilling, by Denis Kelly, Melanie Barnard, Barbara Grunes & Michael McLaughlin (Oxmoor House, 2003).