Faux frog salad is a rich, elegant dish featuring tender chicken braised in coconut cream and young coconut flesh with a chili-jam based dressing. Utilizing an old-fashioned salad assembly technique – the ‘mix and layer’ – this is a visually striking salad with alternating layers of reds and whites.
The name of this vintage dish – Faux Frog Salad – could be a reflection of the swinging social norms in Siam during the roaring twenties, a period of significant social change; as the country sought to navigate the challenges of modernization, Siamese society was shifting its dietary preferences away from the frog, once a common, versatile and popular ingredient. Thus, through the desire for distinction, chicken, an ingredient often compared to the taste of everything, was preferable to frog.
To prepare the dish, cut the chicken into small bite-sized pieces and cook it in a pot of simmering coconut middle cream, until the chicken is cooked and the cream has thickened and clings to the meat. For the best results, use freshly squeezed coconut cream. After the chicken is cooked, transfer it, along with enough of the cooking liquid, to a mixing bowl. The chicken will be dressed in chili jam, so keep that in mind when deciding how much of the cooking liquid to use.
Immediately before serving, re-season the chili jam to a sour leading, salty and sweet-to-follow flavor profile using equal parts of fish sauce and freshly squeezed lime juice, with a half part of palm sugar. Thinly sliced lemongrass and thinly julienned kaffir lime leaves are mixed into the chicken and young coconut mixture before adding the dressing. These citrusy elements merge with the sourness of the chili jam and lime juice of the dressing, revitalizing the rich coconut and chili jam components. Finally, an herbal identity is composed with the fresh bird eye chilis’ fruity heat, while mint leaves provide refreshing coolness, and coriander leaves contribute earthy notes.
The ‘mix and layer’ technique involves dressing salad ingredients individually or in groups and arranging them in layers. In this recipe, the chicken is mixed with young coconut, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, and then drizzled with chili jam dressing. The salad is mixed gently, keeping the chili jam partially mixed. Furthermore, additional chili jam dressing and coconut cream are drizzled on top of the dish, resulting in an alternating white and red strips.
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- 2 cups chicken meat (เนื้อไก่) sliced into small cubes
- 1/2 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 1/2 cup lemongrass (ตะไคร้) thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon fresh bird’s eye chili (kee noo suan) (พริกขี้หนูสวนสด) thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup mint leaves (ใบสะระแหน่) hand torn
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (ใบผักชี)
- 1/2 tablespoon kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด) sliced into hair-thin juliennes
- young coconut flesh (เนื้อมะพร้าวอ่อน)
- 2 parts chili jam (น้ำพริกเผา)
- 1 part fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1 part lime juice (น้ำมะนาว)
- 1/2 part palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- Prepare the chicken: Slice the chicken into small, bite-sized cubes. Simmer the chicken in coconut middle cream (กลางกะทิ) until it is thoroughly cooked, and the cream has thickened and is coating the chicken. For optimal results, use fresh coconut cream.
- Transfer the chicken: After the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a mixing bowl along with an appropriate amount of the cooking liquid. Bear in mind that you’ll be coating the chicken with chili jam, so adjust the amount of liquid to match. Retain some extra cooking liquid in a separate bowl to drizzle over the salad upon serving.
- Mix in the young coconut: Add the flesh of a young coconut sliced into elongated strips, and mix it with the chicken.
- Add citrus elements: Just before serving, mix thinly sliced lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves cut into hair-thin juliennes into the chicken and young coconut mixture. These components will complement the lime-dominant sourness of the dressing.
- Prepare the dressing: Re-season the chili jam to a sour leading, salty and sweet-to- follow profile by using equal amounts of fish sauce and lime juice and adding less palm sugar. You can add ground chili flakes if you wish.
- Dressing: Drizzle some of the chili jam dressing over the the chicken and young coconut mixture, but do not mix it yet. Use less chili jam than would be required to fully coat the chicken with chili jam and reserve the rest of the chili jam for plating.
- Add the herbs: Sprinkle three herbs on top of the partially dressed chicken mixture: thinly sliced bird’s eye chili for a fruity heat; small whole mint leaves for a refreshing coolness; and hand-picked coriander leaves for an elegant earthy touch.
- Mix the salad: Using two forks, gently combine all the ingredients just to the point where the chili jam and coconut cream only start to blend – do not overmix as it will diminish the layered aspects of the salad and flatten its complexity. Furthermore, overmixing will damage the citrusy, airy notes and leave them just sharp.
- Serve: Place the salad mixture on a serving plate. Over the mixture, drizzle some of the reserved thickened coconut left from cooking the chicken and the leftover chili jam dressing.