Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
A salad has to offer a lot for me to consider it dinner. With a hearty feel and an interesting mix of textures and contrasting flavors, this one checks all the boxes. It’s roughly inspired by the crispy duck salads you’ll find at many Thai restaurants; particularly the sweet-and-sour dressing that’s typically a mix of things like lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.
I’m a major cabbage fan for its versatility and range (and its remarkable ability to stay good in the fridge for weeks), so that’s the base here. If you use something else, make sure it won’t easily wilt so it can stand up to the chicken, which will probably still be a little warm when you toss everything together. Kale, shredded carrots or iceberg lettuce would be nice. You could even forgo the cabbage entirely and toss everything else in the dressing, like some restaurant versions do.
Red cabbage is slightly sweeter than its green counterpart (though either works here), and it adds an eye-popping purple hue to the dish that accents the deep green of the mint leaves. Those leaves are torn so they’ll be more evenly dispersed throughout the mixture, and also to help release the flavors and aromas of the herb.
Variations of this salad sometimes include a boost of sweetness from mango or pineapple; for fall, I’ve added Granny Smith apple instead. The apple brings a juicy crunch, with a hint of tartness too. Both are welcome foils for the chicken, which is crisped up from a shallow fry in a skillet. Shredding a store-bought rotisserie chicken is an obvious time saver, well suited to this recipe, which adds more texture and bolder flavors to the humble ingredient. The shredded pieces’ craggly edges and variety of sizes only make the salad’s textures more interesting, and there’s no need to worry about even cooking since that’s already been done for you. Save the remaining bones to make a stock with later.
Thanks to this shortcut, everything comes together in just about 15 minutes, once you’ve prepped the produce. That means more time to enjoy the wine pairing, which should have enough acidity to match the brightness of the dressing but still have some texture to the mouthfeel and complement the varied elements of fish sauce, raw apple and mint. I went with a recent vintage of Netzl Grüner Veltliner Weinland Christina from Austria, a delightfully drinkable choice that mingles savory and spicy notes with orchard fruit and herbs.
Thai-Inspired Cabbage Salad with Chicken and Apples
Pair with a bright, textured white wine such as a younger vintage of Netzl Grüner Veltliner Weinland Christina 2018 (91 points, $17).
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Approximate food costs: $30
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup lime juice, plus 4 optional lime wedges for serving
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
- 3/4 to 1 pound of shredded rotisserie chicken
- 3 cups red cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn into smaller pieces
- 1/2 tart apple such as Granny Smith, sliced into matchsticks
- 1/4 cup cashews or peanuts, chopped
1. Whisk together fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, honey and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Season to taste with salt and set aside.
2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, enough to cover the bottom. When the oil is shimmering, add the shredded chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes, tossing the chicken every so often, until the pieces are golden and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and sprinkle lightly with salt.
3. Combine the cabbage, mint and apples in a large bowl. Add desired amount of dressing, fold in the chicken and divide salad onto four plates. Top with cashews or peanuts and serve with extra lime wedges, if desired. Serves 4.