Nam jim is a sauce found in Thai cooking that can be used to accompany many cold dishes and salads. Its hot, sour, salty, sweet flavour is delicious. It is, however, important to balance the flavours so that no one taste dominates the others.
I really love this crunchy salad, which is something I often make for myself at home. I like to eat it alongside simple steamed rice, which offers a gorgeous contrast.
For the nam jim
1 bunch of coriander
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
A pinch of salt
2 green bird's-eye chillies, chopped
2 tbsp palm sugar or caster sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
2 red shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 small chicken
1 small knob of ginger
3 kaffir lime leaves
For the salad
2 small carrots
2 small cucumbers (or half a large one)
8-10 candlenuts or cashew nuts
A handful of coriander leaves
10 or 12 basil leaves
To make the nam jim, pound the coriander stalks (the roots and stalks of coriander are used in cooking; the leaves are reserved for garnishes and salads), with the garlic and salt using a pestle and mortar until well crushed. Add the chillies and continue to pound. Mix in the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, then the chopped shallots. Set aside.
Wash and pat dry the chicken, then place in a large pot. Add the ginger, coriander and lime leaves, and cover with cold water. Place over a medium heat, bring to the boil then turn to a simmer – you want the chicken to cook gently. Poach for 40 minutes.
Take the pot off the heat and allow it to cool for a while, before removing the chicken from the cooking broth. Poaching is a lovely way to cook k chicken that's to be served at room temperature – it remains deliciously soft and moist.
For the salad, peel the carrots and cut into fine matchsticks. Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon then cut into fine matchsticks. Gently roast the nuts until golden-brown. Remove and allow to cool, then chop roughly.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the flesh from the bones and shred with your fingers. Place in a bowl alongside the carrots, cucumber, coriander, basil and toasted nuts. Dress with the nam jim and serve immediately.