If you read this blog you know I love a good leisurely cook. I’m sure some would rather call them “cumbersome” or “needlessly complicated” but I stand by the word leisurely. My recipes tend to celebrate the act of cooking, making a meal out of, well, making a meal. But when the summer hits that all goes out the window. If the sun is shining you will not find me assembling agnolotti. What you will find me doing is tossing protein in a hastily prepared marinade before abandoning it in my fridge. And from there the protein is grilled and served alongside a salad I cobbled together from things in my crisper and, hopefully, a glass of cold beer. It’s a whole different vibe. And today’s Sticky Chicken Thighs with Rice Noodle Salad fits very comfortably into that vibe.
I know what you’re thinking. I had all that veg hiding in my crisper? Well, yes and no. I am in a perpetual state of attempting to make my way through a whole head of cabbage. Ditto for the radishes, which I always seem to think I need more of than I actually do. Carrots are long-term residents of my crisper and my fridge feels naked without a cucumber of some kind. But the purple asparagus was a special acquisition, it’s true.
Around this time of year, I buy so much unplanned produce. Every time I walk into the grocery store or market there is some novel piece of local veg I cannot resist buying. And if that piece of produce happens to be purple, well, I have to restrain myself from buying 8. These purple asparagus were no exception. I even endured being severely judged by a grocery store clerk for paying the extra three dollars for the purple over the green. She obviously didn’t know they were destined for a photo shoot and therefore worth every penny.
Now, if you’re not into giving your dishes the model treatment, you can certainly sub the purple asparagus for the equally delicious green asparagus. But they are kind of fun to play with. So if you opt to spend a little more for the unbridled glee that comes with adding purple to your plate, just know I get you and I see you.
But enough about purple, let’s talk marinades. All my marinades follow the same equation. A good amount of salt, a little sweet, something for depth, something acidic, and some type of oil. Now, obviously, the ratios can be adjusted. But never underestimate how much salt a marinade needs. In the case of these Sticky Chicken Thighs, I upped the sweet considerably and went for an ingredient that brought both salt and depth simultaneously – fish sauce. But you get the point, every marinade should have these five elements.
Now, let’s talk about protein. Chicken thighs are my favorite for this marinade but you could swap them out for a few chicken breasts if you’re more of a white meat person. And if you’re a no meat person, extra firm tofu works very well here. I’ve made this recipe with it several times and it always comes out beautifully. Now, of course, you will have to swap out the fish sauce for veg-friendly fish sauce. There are a few brands on the market. But if you can’t find any, try this recipe from Minimalist Baker. It’s really quite delicious.
Okay, with the chicken happily swimming in our marinade, we can move on to the dressing. I like to make the dressing at the same time I make the marinade. It cuts down on the amount of work I have to do when dinnertime is imminent and I am very likely to be hangry. Plus, the dressing can hang out in the fridge and deepen in flavor. This dressing is a little different because it has an extra step. The first thing we’re going to do is lightly pickle the shallots in the lime juice. Once the shallots soften slightly and turn fuchsia around the edges, you can add the remaining dressing ingredients, give it a whisk and stow it in the fridge.
From here dinner is pretty much done. So when your tummy says it’s time, all you have to do is soften the noodles in some boiling water before rinsing and dressing them in the vinaigrette you made earlier. Retrieve your chicken and give it a good charring before slicing it up and piling it on top of the noodles. And finally, adding all the veg you care to eat. That’s really it. You could pretty much do all of this with a beer in one hand. Basically, this meal is the stuff of summer dreams.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Sticky Chicken Thighs with Rice Noodle Salad. Juicy chicken, fresh veg, and chewy noodles – what more could you want from a summer meal? Effortless and quick, you say? Well, this dish is that as well.
Sticky Chicken Thighs with Rice Noodle Salad
- 1 mandolin optional
Sticky Chicken Thighs
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp sambal oelek
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 6-8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 1 stalk lemongrass smashed
Lime Pickled Shallot Dressing
- 2 shallots halved and sliced
- 2 limes juiced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp honey
Rice Noodle Salad
- 255g (9oz) rice noodles
- ¼ head red cabbage shredded
- 6 large asparagus spears shaved, tips halved
- 6-8 radishes sliced thin on a mandolin**
- 2 mini cucumbers sliced thin on a mandolin
- 3 small carrots sliced into ribbons
- fresh cilantro sprigs to garnish
- fresh mint leaves to garnish
- honey roasted peanuts for sprinkling
For the Chicken
- In a large bowl, whisk to combine the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, sambal oelek, and sesame oil. Add the chicken thighs and lemongrass and toss to coat. Transfer to the fridge and let chill for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.¼ cup fish sauce, 2 tbsp dark brown sugar, 1 tbsp sambal oelek, 1 lime, 2 tsp sesame oil, 6-8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, 1 stalk lemongrass
- When you're ready to grill, heat a bbq or a cast iron griddle over high heat until smoking. Sear the chicken thighs on both sides before reducing the grill temperature to medium-low or moving the chicken over indirect heat. Continue to cook the chicken until it registers an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent it with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.
For the Dressing
- Once the chicken is in the marinade, place the shallots in a small bowl. Cover them with lime juice and set them aside to pickle at room temperature for an hour.2 shallots, 2 limes
- When the hour is up, add the remaining dressing ingredients and whisk to combine. Cover the dressing and transfer it to the fridge. Chill until ready to serve.2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp honey
For the Salad
- While the chicken is resting, place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover them with boiling water. Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes or until the noodles are tender. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water and return them to the bowl.255g (9oz) rice noodles
- Pour the dressing over the noodles and toss to coat. Divide the noodles across four bowls.
- Slice the chicken and divide the pieces across the bowls. Top the noodles with the asparagus, carrots, cucumber, radish, and cabbage. Garnish the bowls with cilantro, mint, and honey roasted peanuts. Serve immediately.¼ head red cabbage, 6 large asparagus spears, 6-8 radishes, 2 mini cucumbers, 3 small carrots, fresh cilantro sprigs, fresh mint leaves, honey roasted peanuts