I adore spring rolls but more for the filling than the sometimes mouth-cloying nature of the deep-fried wrappers. Here it is heavy on the salad with the spring roll sheets being lightly flash fried in a super-hot pan so you don't miss out on that glorious textural crunch. I like to serve this in one large serving bowl so you can toss the salad at the table, ready for people to heap onto plates and top with a crisp puffed piece of rice paper and lashings of fresh lime juice.
500g chicken thighs
3 stalks lemongrass, white part only, chopped
3 tbsp coconut oil, plus extra as required
1 small bunch coriander, leaves and roots, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 green chilli, roughly chopped
4 makrut lime leaves, deveined, chopped
2 x 50g portions of dried rice vermicelli noodles, softened in a bowl of boiling water and strained
1 small green mango, shredded using a mandolin
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled into ribbons or grated
1 large carrot, peeled into ribbons or grated
½ bunch coriander leaves, coarsely torn
½ small bunch Thai basil leaves and flowers
3 tbsp Vietnamese mint leaves
½ cup salted peanuts, to serve
¼ cup crispy fried shallots, to serve
Crisp rice paper
rice bran or flavourless oil
4-6 rice paper spring roll wrappers (Vietnamese style, not spring roll pastry)
½ cup salted peanuts
¾ cup hoisin sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice and zest of ½ lime
generous pinch brown sugar
1. Blitz the marinade ingredients in a blender, you may need to add a little extra coconut oil to help loosen it and to ensure the fibrous woody lemongrass breaks down properly. Once blended, scrape out into a bowl, add the chicken thighs, rubbing them thoroughly in the marinade then cover and pop in the fridge. This does amazing things if you can let it marinate overnight but at a minimum, 2 hours will be more than fine.
2. Assemble the salad ingredients, aside from the peanuts and shallots, in a large serving bowl.
3. To make the dressing, roughly smash the peanuts in a mortar and pestle then add to a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Stir and set aside.
4. To make the crisp rice paper sheets, place a large frypan over high heat. Coat the base of your pan in oil – you want to have a thin film of oil as it seems to puff best like this. Once the oil is very, very hot and shimmering, add a sheet of rice paper, pressing down on it as it puffs and moves around with a pair of tongs, until all the translucent parts have puffed white and golden in spots. Remove from heat and set aside on a plate. Repeat with remaining rice paper sheets and additional oil. I suggest reapplying the oil for each rice sheet. (If using an electric stove, you may need to flip the rice paper and cook both sides to get it to puff evenly.)
5. Return the same pan to the heat and reduce the heat to medium. Add the chicken thighs and any marinade and cook until lightly charred and golden on one side, about two minutes. Flip and continue to cook for an additional 10-12 minutes or until cooked through.
6. Transfer the thighs to a chopping board and slice into generous slices. Add the chicken to the bowl of salad and top with peanuts and fried onions.
7. Serve with the dressing to the side to toss at the table or so that people can help themselves. Serve with puffed rice sheets.