Light, crunchy, and tangy, Vietnamese Chicken Salad is made with chicken, cabbage, fresh herbs, and zesty pickled vegetables. Perfect for hot days, it is a meal in itself and an excellent way to use up leftover roast chicken.
Why You Will Love this Salad
Being children of East Portland in the last decades of the 20th century, Mr B and I grew up with the flavors and foods of Southeast Asia, and specifically Vietnam. In addition to eating at my friends' homes as a teen, and countless carts and brick-and-mortars over the years, I've also taken a number of Vietnamese cooking classes - including one from the family who introduced the entire city to Spring Rolls back in the 70's. Through a lifetime of experience, we've gained great respect and genuine appreciation for Vietnamese culture and cuisine.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad (Goi Ga) is a crisp, colorful salad made with chicken, cabbage, fresh herbs, and zesty pickled vegetables. Not only is this chicken salad is a long-time favorite; it's also one the easiest recipes ever to make!
Light and fresh, goi ga tastes a lot like a bánh mì without the bread. (A bánh mì is basically a Vietnamese sub sandwich.) It's perfect for hot days when turning on the stove is out of the question, and is an excellent way to use up leftover roast chicken. Like most green salads, it is best eaten the same day it is made.
What Goes into this Salad
Nuoc Mam Ingredient Notes
Nuoc Mam is a type of Vietnamese fish sauce characterized by its sweet, sour, spicy, slightly pungent flavor. It is typically used as a dipping sauce; however, in the case of this recipe, it is used as a dressing.
This nuoc mam recipe is adapted from one shared with me in 1980-something by the Saturday Market spring roll family. It does not require lime as many nuoc mam recipes do; however, if you want to add a tablespoon of so of lime juice, that works.
★ Fish Sauce: We recommend using Red Boat Fish Sauce.
I rarely recommend a particular product unless I have strong feelings about it, or a similar product is so different that it could change a recipe's end result. In this case, both statements are true. I have used many different fish sauce brands over the years, and the best one (IMHO) is Red Boat.
★ Cider Vinegar: Use cider vinegar, both in the sauce, and in the pickling mix for the salad.
Substitutions: You can use white vinegar; however, the result will be more astringent, and lack the sweet quality imparted by the cider vinegar.
★ Carrots: Carrots should be peeled and coarsely grated.
Substitutions: Use half carrots and half diakon radish.
★ Sugar: Use plain white sugar.
Salad Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
★ Chicken: Use roast chicken. It is easier to shred the chicken into thin, small pieces when it is cold.
Substitutions: Roast turkey.
★ Cabbage: We recommend using napa cabbage for its mild, peppery flavor.
Substitutions: Savoy cabbage, bok choy, and regular cabbage all will work.
★ Cilantro: We love the flavor of cilantro in this salad; however, to be more authentic, you can use Vietnamese coriander (rau ram) if you can find it.
Substitutions: If you really don't like cilantro, try using Thai basil or a mixture of basil and mint.
★ Mint: In this recipe, mint is an optional ingredient; however, it adds a bright, fresh pop to the salad.
★ Red onion: Slice the onion from stem to root end very thinly.
Substitutions: You can also use a sweet onion. Avoid field or yellow onions, as they can be too pungent.
For extra flavor and texture, try adding a julienned daikon radish or cucumber to the mix.
How to Make Goi Ga
In a large jar, mix together all of the Nuoc Mam ingredients.
Cover and refrigerate.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together ⅓ cup vinegar, ⅓ cup water, and 3 tablespoons sugar until the sugar has fully dissolved.
Add the sliced red onion and ¾ cup of grated carrots, and submerge them in the vinegar mixture. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
In a large serving bowl, toss together the shredded chicken, sliced cabbage, cilantro, and (optional) mint.
Drain the marinated vegetables, and toss them with the chicken-cabbage mixture.
Drizzle about ½ cup of the prepared nuoc mam sauce over the salad and toss to coat.
We like to strain out most of the grated carrots from the nuoc mam and save them for using on sandwiches.
Garnish the salad with cilantro and mint as desire. Serve with additional nuoc mam on the side.
FAQs & Expert Tips
Nuoc Mam is a type of Vietnamese fish sauce characterized by its sweet, sour, spicy, mildly pungent flavor. This nuoc mam recipe is adapted from one shared with me by the Saturday Market spring roll family.
Nuoc Cham is a generic term for sauce, and may have a base of fish sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, or something else entirely.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad Recipe (Goi Ga)
- ⅓ cup cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 small red onion peeled and thinly sliced end to end; about 5 ounces
- ¾ cup grated carrots about 3 ounces
- 10 ounces cold cooked chicken shredded; about 2 cups
- 1 small head napa cabbage thinly sliced; about 8 ounces
- 1 bunch cilantro coarsely chopped
- 1 handful fresh mint (optional) chopped; about 1 ounce
Nuoc Mam (Dressing)
- In a large jar, mix together all of the Nuoc Mam ingredients.Cover and refrigerate.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together ⅓ cup vinegar, ⅓ cup water, and 3 tablespoons sugar until the sugar has fully dissolved.
- Add the sliced red onion and ¾ cup of grated carrots, and submerge them in the vinegar mixture. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
- In a large serving bowl, toss together the shredded chicken, sliced cabbage, cilantro, and (optional) mint.
- Drain the marinated vegetables, and toss them with the chicken-cabbage mixture.
- Drizzle about ½ cup of the prepared Nuoc Mam over the salad and toss to coat. We like to strain out the grated carrots from the Nuoc Cham sauce and save them for using on sandwiches.
- Garnish the salad with cilantro and mint as desire. Serve with additional nuoc mam on the side.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, including Amazon affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details.