Numbing Chicken Noodle Salad

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4–6

    as a starter or light meal

Appears in

This is a glorious mix of contrasting textures and flavours – numbing and tingling Sichuan pepper, cooling cucumber and mint, sweet crunchy nuts, zesty lime and tender noodles. A mellow sesame and soy dressing rounds out the flavours.

Ingredients

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts 3 organic, each weighing about 150 g/ oz
  • thin rice noodles 100 g/ oz
  • cashew nuts 3 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • muscovado sugar ¾ tsp
  • sea salt ¾ tsp
  • lime finely grated zest of 1
  • groundnut oil 2 tbsp
  • Sichuan pepper 1 tsp, crushed
  • white peppercorns ½ tsp, crushed
  • cucumber ½
  • spring onions 3 large, thickly sliced diagonally
  • Chinese leaves of a head, thickly sliced diagonally
  • mint handful of leaves, stems discarded
  • coriander handful of leaves, stems discarded

For the Marinade

  • sugar 2 tbsp
  • dry sherry or rice wine 2 tbsp
  • soy sauce 2 tsp
  • ginger root 2.5 cm/1 in chunk
  • hoisin sauce 3 tbsp
  • salt ¼ tsp

For the Dressing

  • Sichuan pepper 1 tbsp, crushed
  • light soy sauce 2 tbsp
  • rice vinegar 2 tbsp
  • cold-pressed sesame or sunflower oil 3 tbsp

Method

First make the marinade: dissolve the sugar in the sherry and soy sauce. Squeeze the ginger in a garlic press and add the juice to the mix. Stir in the hoisin sauce and salt.

Halve the chicken breasts horizontally, then cut them as evenly as possible into neat strips about 1cm x 4cm/½in x 1½in. Mix these with the marinade and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Boil a kettleful of water and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Pull the rice noodles apart and break into shorter lengths. (Do this in a large deep bowl to stop bits of noodle flying about.) Pour the just-boiled water over the noodles and leave them to soften for 8–10 minutes. Swish with tongs now and again to separate the strands. Drain under cold running water for about a minute. Shake off as much water as you can, then spread the noodles out on a tray to dry off a bit.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients until well blended. Combine the cashews, sugar, sea salt and lime zest in a small bowl.

In a frying pan or wok, heat the oil with the two kinds of pepper until almost smoking. Add the chicken and the marinade and stir-fry for 4–5 minutes or until cooked through. Drain on paper towels.

Trim the ends from the cucumber, cutting at a sharp angle. Halve lengthways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Slice diagonally into thin crescents.

Mix the cucumber with the spring onions, Chinese leaves, mint, coriander and noodles in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing again and pour two-thirds of it over the salad. Toss with your hands to distribute the noodles, then tip into a shallow serving dish.

Sprinkle with the nut mixture then scatter the chicken over the top. Pour over the rest of the dressing.

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