1, Fill a small saucepan half full with water, add the salt, and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Drop in the chicken breasts. When the water starts bubbling at the edges of the pan, remove the pan from the heat and cover tightly. Let stand for 20 minutes. The chicken should be firm yet still yield a bit to the touch. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve the light stock for another use ( see Note ) or discard. When cool enough to handle, shred with your fingers into thin pieces, pulling the meat along its natural grain. Put the chicken in a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
2, Meanwhile, put the onion in a small bowl and add the white vinegar just to cover. Set aside for 15 minutes; the vinegar will reduce the harshness of the onion. Drain well and add to the bowl with the chicken, along with the cabbage, carrot, and Vietnamese coriander.
3, To make the dressing, using a mortar and pestle, mash the chiles, garlic, sugar, and salt together into a fragrant orange-red paste. This releases and combines the oils from the chile and garlic. Scrape the paste into a bowl and add the fish sauce and rice vinegar, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt and to combine well.
4, Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to mix well. The salad will wilt slightly. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing the sour, sweet, salty, and spicy. Transfer to a serving plate, leaving any unabsorbed dressing behind, and serve.
Vietnamese Chicken Cabbage Salad (Gỏi Bắp Cải Gà)
may be readied through step 3 up to 4 hours in advance. Cover the vegetables and chicken and refrigerate, and cover the dressing and leave at room temperature. Return the vegetables and chicken to room temperature before tossing.
Serve this Vietnamese Salad
with a bowl of Basic Rice Soup . Use the light stock left over from poaching the chicken as part of the liquid for making the soup. At the table, invite guests to put some of the salad into their soup. It not only cools the soup a bit (helpful in a tropical climate such as Vietnam), but also adds interesting texture and flavor.
Omit the chicken to create a zesty Vietnamese slaw that tastes good with all kinds of barbecue.