I absolutely adore clean, fresh and vibrant Asian flavors. My first exposure to, and subsequent adoration of, Asian cuisine was during my first visit to Asia four years ago with two of my best mates, Anna and Alexandra. "The Asian Crew," to which we are often referred (which is funny, but more strange, considering we went to high school and college together too - not just Asia - ha), backpacked around the southeastern countries of Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore) for two months after graduating from UVa. In addition to visiting temples, getting scuba-certified, hiking through jungles, rafting down rivers in inner-tubes, and drinking vodka from buckets (as you do when you're 22), we embraced each country's slightly different cuisine and were even 'cultured' enough to take a cooking class in Cambodia! While none of us had much of a cooking background, we had such exciting experience learning about and experimenting with all the Asian ingredients which were so foreign to us at the time. I remember being so inspired to get home and cook up for our parents all the recipes we learned during our class. Unfortunately that plan never eventuated (maybe because we couldn't find banana leaves in Richmond?), but hopefully the recipe notes are still somewhere at home that I can dig up now that my Asian food passion has made a resurgence.
When I say I love Asian food, what I mean is that I enjoy certain flavors and styles of cooking, rather than any particular country's cuisine. If I had to choose, though, I would say I favor Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese the most, over Chinese, Malaysian or Indonesian. When you consider that many of these Asian countries share borders, and inevitably, common ingredients, it's no wonder Asian Fusion cuisine, which is just combining flavors from different countries, has become so popular.
Speaking of popularity, Aussies are obsessed with food from these eastern cultures. In Sydney, there are Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants on almost every major corner. I must say, however, that many of these restaurants are take-away shops that have adapted their menu items to suit Western tastes rather than offering traditional dishes which, without any option for "mild," would most probably singe our taste buds off! While some of these places offer clean options on their menu, many others cook everything in trans-fat and then douse it with sugar and salt (and/or MSG) before serving to the unsuspecting customer. Delicious at the time, only to be followed by a headache and a very bloated tummy. Can't have that! My solution to this little culinary conundrum has been to start experimenting at home with Asian cooking. Not only is cooking my own fusion cuisine much healthier because I know exactly what is going into the dish, but also it means I can mix and match key ingredients and complimentary flavors to suit my own tastes. For example, if I am making a Pad Thai, I don't have to use those weird little dried shrimp things (no doubt preservative-central) that are traditionally and commonly used in restaurant versions of this Thai classic. Considering I have no culinary training whatsoever, usually my experiments involve a trial-and-error approach and crossed fingers that my adventure in Asian cooking turns out well. In the case of this noodle salad, I can happily say it did!
I drew on my three cuisine faves - Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese - for inspiration for this one. The dressing makes this dish sweet, salty and sour which is a deliciously addictive combo that any good Asian Fusion dish should have....without the trans-fat, refined sugar or salt. Win!
Asian Fusion Chicken and Raw Veggie Noodle Salad
- 1 packet (150g) bifun rice noodles
- 2-3 cups of cooked chicken, thinly sliced, shredded or minced
- flesh from one drinking coconut, thinly sliced
- 1 zucchini, julienned or "spiralized" using a spiralizer
- 1 carrot , julienned
- 1 capsicum / red pepper, sliced
- 1 cup mint leaves, sliced
- 1 red chili, finely chopped or a Tbsp or two of red chili flakes
- 1/3 cup unhulled sesame seeds, toasted
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 3 Tbsp lime juice
- 3 Tbsp mirin
- t tsp toasted sesame oil
What to do:
This is a great recipe if you have leftover cooked chicken in the fridge and need to use it up. If not, cook chicken breast and slice it up, or chicken mince which breaks into bite-sized pieces once cooked. Prepare rice noodles according to packet instructions (I put them in a bowl, poured boiling water over them, and let them sit for 10 min before rinsing in cold water and setting aside to drain). If you can't find fresh young coconuts (or can't get them open yourself!), I imagine you could use coconut flakes as a substitute though unfortunately they would not stay crunchy. For the zucchini and carrot, the easiest way to make them into noodles is to use a spiralizer. Since I don't have one, I just julienned them, which means to cut into long thin sticks. Toast sesame seeds over medium heat in a dry skillet until golden and fragrant. Once you've got everything prepped, combine chicken, veggies, coconut, mint, chili, most of the sesame seeds and the noodles. Combine remaining ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Add dressing to salad, toss with your hands, and garnish with extra sesame seeds.
With leftover chicken and a spiralizer, this bad boy would be on the table in twenty minutes max. If you're a little less organised (which was me this week!), then you may have to do a bit more work in the kitchen to get this ready, but no more than an hour I'd say. This is a great recipe to make in bulk on Sunday night and have in the fridge all week for a healthy work lunch. If you are going to do this, I would suggest keeping the dressing in a jar in the fridge and 'dressing' each serve as you go so that everything doesn't get all soggy.
What are your favorite ingredients from various Asian cuisines? Do you have any Asian-inspiring recipes that you care to share? Would love to hear from you!
You might also like: