Poached chicken and pomelo
For as long as I can remember, Sunday is the only day of the week that provides me with some semblance of a routine. And one constant is a weekly food shop that almost always involves buying a whole chicken.
Taking the time to prepare a whole chicken not simply for roasting is a luxury I enjoy a lot. I have developed different methods, but the result is generally three meals for two people – one meal from the breast meat, one from the thigh meat and a broth from the bones.
This recipe uses cockerel, which is generally perceived as being tough and gamy. However, I find they produce a much better broth and the flavour is more robust, lending itself to salads of this style. Cockerel is very unlikely to come from an industrial farm due to their slow growth rate and less “desirable” characteristics. If you can’t source cockerel, a quality whole chicken will also work.
I have only just come around to liking citrus in salads (possibly my aversion was due to some jarring combinations made fashionable in the ’80s) and here a pomelo is the best to use as the body of the salad. Pomelos have a much more restrained taste – not as sour as grapefruit, not as sweet as orange – but with enough fibre to hold some fairly sturdy flavour.
The seasoning and style for this salad is closest to Thai but it is by no means completely authentic, so swap and substitute ingredients as you see fit. Chilli is a great addition, as is coconut milk. But when the chicken and the pomelo are at their peak I rarely feel the need to raise the flavour stakes.
Poached chicken and pomelo
– 1 cockerel, but any whole chicken is suitable
– 6 shallots
– 10g ginger
– 10g grachai (wild ginger)
– 70ml fish sauce
– 1 large pomelo
– 500ml oil for frying
– 30g brown sugar
– 30ml lime juice
– 1 bunch Vietnamese mint, finely shredded
– 1 bunch mint, finely shredded
Joint the chicken, or get your butcher to do it, place in a pot and cover it with water then bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer before skimming away any impurities. Let it simmer for 25 minutes, skimming occasionally.
Peel the shallots, then slice finely and toss in one shallot’s worth with the chicken. Peel the ginger and grachai and add the peeling scraps to the pot. Shred both and set aside. Finish the stock with 20 millilitres of the fish sauce and let the lot sit for at least an hour.
Remove the chicken and strain the stock to retain for the freezer. Shred the chicken gently and place it into a bowl. Slice the skin and add it to the meat.
Peel the pomelo with a knife as you would a giant orange, and separate each segment. Shred the flesh as you did the chicken by pulling apart each segment without crushing it. Add the pomelo to the chicken.
Get a wok with the frying oil up to 150 degrees on a high heat then add the rest of the shallots. Keep stirring the shallots until they go lightly tan before lifting them out and draining them on a paper towel.
Mix the remaining 50 millilitres of fish sauce with the sugar and lime juice. Taste it and adjust in whatever direction you prefer.
Add the finely shredded mints to the chicken and pomelo, along with the shredded ginger and grachai. Pour over the fish sauce dressing, then place the salad into a serving bowl and finish with the fried shallots.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 30, 2020 as "Cockerel doodle-do".
A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.