I’m so pretty, oh so pretty!
How good does this look!?! I love how this salad presents – so much colour, texture & whole food goodness! It is sweet & tangy with just enough warmth from the chilli to make your taste buds squirm with glee. Filled with fresh papaya, organic home-grown eggplant & coriander, this dish is a feast for the eyes & the palette. A tantalising & satisfying warm noodle salad, perfect for a cold Winter’s day lunch.
I will let you in on a little secret … I am not very familiar with Asian style cooking. I know, seems ridiculous – who is this current multi-cultural cooking obsessed culture isn’t offay with Asian fair?? How is it possible?? Sorry to disappoint, I know I should know more, but I just don’t. I love it when someone else cooks dishes like these, but I always feel uncertain & out of my comfort zone when I attempt them. Crazy really, as recipes like this one, are actually quite simple & so gorgeously fresh, I don’t know why I don’t cook them more often!
This particular dish came into being after I started experimenting using papaya in different ways so that I could enter a recipe into a competition. I scoured my recipe books & the internet looking into it & saw that it is often used in Thai style salads & other Asian cooking. While I couldn’t settle on something I really felt confident with, I moved on to using the papaya in the muffins I baked for the competition.
Around the same time I was scouting around looking for recipes that I could play with using a handful of eggplants we had grown in our little home garden. This is another vegetable I don’t often keep on hand & am never sure of the best way to serve. While looking into it, I came across a recipe on, the always beautiful, 101 Cookbooks, that used eggplant, with tofu, mango & soba noodles. I was really taken with the recipe, but didn’t have any rice wine vinegar, am not a huge fan of tofu & mango is out of season. I almost moved on from it, but then thought about what I did have that might still work well with a similar flavour base. I had apple cider vinegar, chicken & papaya. After a few variations, I came up with what you see here – & I have to say I am really pleased!
My mum & I tucked into this particular salad for lunch on the day I made it. She was kind enough to keep the little ones busy while I fluffed around cooking & taking photos – it seemed the least I could do was share it with her! Mum loved it too! Her comment was that it was fresh, zesty, with just enough sweet & salty to balance it out nicely. The texture & crunch from the sesame seeds & salad onion round it out wonderfully.
Here’s how it goes;
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar - (I used Rapadura)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 lime - grated zest and juice
- 1/3 cup light flavoured cooking oil - (I used Sunflower)
- 1 medium eggplant, small dice about 1cm
- 1 large chicken breast, thinly sliced - (mine was about 300gm)
- 225g dried soba noodles
- 1/2 papaya, small dice about 1cm
- 1/2 medium salad onion, very thinly sliced
- Up to 1/2 bunch coriander, finely chopped - save some for garnish
- In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt.
- Cook & stir until the sugar dissolves - about 1 minute.
- Remove from heat.
- Add the garlic, chilli, and sesame oil.
- Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
- In large frypan over high heat, dry toast the sesame seeds - move them around the pan & remove from heat as you see them start to colour - set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium high, add the cooking oil.
- Shallow fry the eggplant in batches, until deeply golden.
- Place cooked eggplant on a large plate lined with paper towels.
- Sprinkle with generous pinch of salt.
- Using the same frypan, add a touch more oil, (if needed), & stir fry the chicken strips until golden brown.
- Place cooked chicken on a medium plate to cool slighty.
- Bring large pot of water to the boil
- Cook soba noodles as directed - (the ones I used took about 4 minutes)
- Drain well and rinse with cold running water.
- Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry in the colander or on a tea towel.
- In a large mixing bowl toss the dressing, papaya, chicken, eggplant, onions, and most of the coriander.
- Dish noodles onto a serving plate, then top with the dressed ingredients & garnish with coriander.
- Serve immediately.
- You can prepare ingredients ahead of time & leave them sit in the marinade for a few hours before serving.
- If you want the soba noodles warm, then rinse them in warm water & drain well before serving.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!
What’s your favourite style of cooking? Are you a whiz with Asian fair, or more comfortable with something else? I would love to hear about it!