This is a shot of an indoor market in Vietnam. There is no shelving in this place and the food products are stacked on top of each other or on cartons and are piled sometimes way above the normal reach. Vendors stand on little stools to get to the packages that are on the very top of the stacks. The lighting was very poor in this market but I opted not to use flash so that I could get as candid a shot as possible. Anything could have been purchased in this market. You could buy a conical hat, dried fish and fish sauce, raw meat, rolls of plastic sheets, lemon grass or if you wanted you could buy prepared food to take home or eat while you walked between the stalls. I only saw women vendors in this market, a rambling shopping mall of sorts that took up several city blocks. And when there were no customers to haggle with, the women played cards while they sat on their stools or on the boxes of their produce. I saw some vendors giving each other manicures while they waited for someone to show interest in the merchandise stacked up in their stalls. These ladies were pretty aggressive sales people, too, and once you showed even the slightest bit of interest in what they were selling, they worked very hard to sell you something.
I want to share with you a recipe that I prepare quite often. It is called Hue Chicken Salad, or in Vietnamese it is referred to as ‘ga bop’. I found the recipe in “Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table” by Mai Pham.
The interesting aspect of this salad is the initial treatment of the chicken. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.
HUE CHICKEN SALAD
1/2 whole chicken, thigh and leg scored for faster cooking
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 small yellow onion, sliced paper-thin and rinsed (about 1/2 cup)
2 Thai bird chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped (optional or to taste)
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
4 butter lettuce leaves, preferably inner leaves
1. Fill a large pot with 2 quarts water, add 1-teaspoon sea salt and bring to a vigorous boil. Add the chicken and bring the water back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the chicken sit in the covered pot for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool.
2. Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken. Hand-shred the meat into1/4-inch-thick strips and place in a bowl.
3. Add the black pepper, 1-teaspoon salt and sugar and gently massage into the chicken. Add the lime juice, sliced onion, chilies, mint leaves and oil and then toss together.
4. To serve line a serving plate with the lettuce leaves and place the chicken salad on top of the leaves.