So, you need to whip up this Thai sweet chilli sauce that makes waaay more than you need for this recipe but trust me, it is so, so delicious. If ever there was a moment I considered drinking a dressing, this is it. Use leftovers on salads, as a marinade for all the proteins, heck even rub it into kale leaves as I have done as part of this recipe as standalone 'crisps'. It is a gift that keeps on giving. Store in the fridge in a screw-top jar for up to six months.
Thai coriander dressing (makes about 4 cups)
1 large bunch coriander, leaves and stems, washed thoroughly, chopped
1 small bunch Vietnamese mint, leaves picked
5cm piece galangal, peeled, chopped
1 lemongrass stem, white part only, chopped
5cm piece ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 cup kecap manis
2 cups sweet chilli sauce
100ml fish sauce
1½ tsp sesame oil
juice of 2 limes
1 cup vegetable oil
3 makrut lime leaves, deveined, chopped
500g chicken thighs (about 4 large)
440g packet fresh hokkien noodles (these vary in weight depending on brand but anything around this will do)
1 cup purple kale leaves
½-¾ cup Thai coriander dressing
250g punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup loosely packed edible flowers (optional)
½ cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely torn
½ cup mint leaves (Vietnamese or garden standard), coarsely torn
½ cup coriander leaves, coarsely torn
½ cup wasabi peas
1 medium Lebanese cucumber, shaved into ribbons
1. Preheat oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional).
2. For the dressing, add all ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine until you get a lightly thickened, salad-dressing sort of consistency and the fibrous elements (lemongrass and galangal) have completely broken down. Check for seasoning.
3. Add the chicken to a mixing bowl with enough of the dressing to coat, rubbing the mixture into the thighs. Set aside while you prepare the noodles.
4. Spread the noodles across a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Add the torn kale leaves and then massage ½ cup of the dressing into the noodles and leaves. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through this time, to prevent burning. If your kale leaves are taking on too much colour, simply remove them once they are crisp and set aside until you are assembling the salad. Depending on the thickness of the noodles, they may need more time to crisp, although please remember they do harden a little more as they cool.
5. Meanwhile, place a non-stick frypan over medium heat. Once hot, strain the chicken from any residual marinade and cook for around 3 minutes per side – you want it to char and caramelise without burning. Add the chicken to the noodle tray and cook for a further 10-12 minutes.
6. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes (this is to prevent the herbs from wilting in the heat).
7. While the noodles and chicken are cooling, add all the salad ingredients to a large serving bowl. Toss to combine, then add the noodles, kale leaves and chicken. Toss again before drizzling over more of the dressing to taste. This is best served immediately to get the chewy, crisp textural crunch of the noodles but any leftovers hold in the fridge for a later meal and still taste rather marvellous.
Tips: The best bit about this salad is that you can add and substitute with whatever you have on hand, salad-wise. I've swapped the cucumber for zucchini and added in red onion for extra bite – it is very adaptable to what you do or don't have.
You can also skip charring the chicken in a pan first and just add it to the noodles in the oven, but the charred, smoky flash in the pan does wonders for the flavour, as does giving the noodles an initial head start with plenty of room in the baking pan to crisp up.