Quick doesn’t need to mean boring and flavourless, particularly when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. With just six essential ingredients to drive flavour, chicken thighs can become a regular in the dinner rotation. Fish sauce, apple cider vinegar, chilli (optional), salt, sugar and garlic is all it takes to transform chicken thighs, and when paired with my Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce, it’ll take your family to flavour town. The final element that defines these lettuce wraps and ultimately creates the complete meal is the fine rice vermicelli cakes with spring onion oil, which serve as a flavoursome accompaniment to traditional Vietnamese cuisine.
Fine rice vermicelli cakes are a nest of rice vermicelli noodles that have been dehydrated. They are a quick alternative to boiling rice vermicelli noodles which can typically take up to 10 minutes. Dehydrated fine rice vermicelli cakes take only 90 seconds to rehydrate when steeped in boiling water. They have a soft but slightly chewy texture but are ideal for providing sustenance and absorbing flavour. When dressed with spring onion oil these fine rice vermicelli cakes become fragrant, savoury and simply irresistible. Refer to my cooking kit to know what to look for the next time you are browsing at your local Asian grocer.
Spring onion oil is an essential Vietnamese dressing that I grew up to love. Even those not sold on the raw and peppery notes of raw onion can be converted. The addition of salt adds flavour while the sugar accentuates the natural sweetness of spring onions, and when wilted under cooking oil at smoking point, its peppery notes are softened.
If time is against you, Vietnamese fish sauce chicken lettuce wraps are the perfect family meal that will not only save you time in the kitchen but also deliver your family a meal that’s rich in flavour. Essentially, it’s another great recipe to introduce the kids to Vietnamese cuisine and a spread for the entire family to enjoy as they build their own lettuce wraps. So, do yourself a favour and reduce your cooking time on a school night without sacrificing flavour.
Fish sauce chicken
1 kg boneless chicken thighs (skin on or skinless)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 chilli, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Fine rice vermicelli cakes with spring onion oil
200g fine rice vermicelli cakes
1-1.5L boiling water
½ bunch spring onions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1-1 ½ cups of rice flour
175ml vegetable or grape seed oil
½ iceberg lettuce (cups) or cos lettuce, washed (twin pack)
1 bunch of mint, washed
1 bunch of Thai basil, washed
1 bunch of coriander, washed (optional)
1 continental cucumber or 2 Lebanese cucumbers
Special kitchen equipment:
Medium-large frying pan
Small pot or milk pan
Fish sauce chicken
In a medium bowl, marinate chicken with all ingredients for at least 10 minutes.
Place rice flour into a medium bowl and dredge the chicken lightly in rice flour.
In a large frying pan, heat cooking oil on medium heat and shallow fry chicken for 4-5 minutes each side or until golden, then remove and place on a cooling rack.
Garnish each chicken thigh with a teaspoon of spring onion oil and allow to cool for 5 minutes before slicing into 1cm pieces.
Spring onion oil
In a small bowl add salt and sugar to finely chopped spring onions and mix well.
In a small pot or milk pan bring 50ml cooking oil to smoking point.
Carefully pour oil onto the spring onions then mix well.
Fine rice vermicelli cakes
Place fine rice vermicelli into a large bowl with a pinch of salt.
Pour 1-1.5L of boiling water into the bowl to cover.
Allow to sit for 60-90 seconds then drain well and run under cold water to stop the cooking process, then drain well.
Layer the fine rice vermicelli cakes onto a medium plate and garnish each one with a teaspoon of spring onion oil, then set aside.
On a lettuce cup, place a piece of fine rice vermicelli cake, a few mint and basil leaves, a slice of cucumber, a piece of chicken and wrap well. Dip into fish sauce dipping sauce and enjoy!