Aromatic chicken and som tam salad

by Ed Smith

A light and fragrant recipe for one from Ed Smith

A little bit Thai-inspired, a little bit Indonesian-inspired, and a little bit store cupboard appropriate, this is a light and fragrant recipe that yields succulent chicken, a flavoursome but calming broth, and a fiery punch of a salad. It’s posted at a time of bleak uncertainty—I hope it will provide a moment of distraction and cheer.

This recipe is easily doubled but only increase the braising liquid and aromatics by 50 per cent for 4, 75 per cent for 6.

Read the article that inspired this recipe 


2 chicken legs, split into thighs and drumsticks
2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
25g creamed coconut, grated (or 400ml coconut milk)
2 star anise
2cm fresh ginger, in thin slices
2 dried kaffir lime leaves
1 stick lemongrass, roughly chopped
75g basmati or jasmine rice (one portion)

For the som tam-style salad:
1 tbsp dried shrimp (if you have them)
2 birdseye chilli, roughly chopped
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tbsp peanuts or cashew nuts
1 lime, half juiced, half in wedges
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp palm sugar or golden caster sugar
½ tsp tamarind paste or pomegranate molasses
50g green beans, trimmed and halved
50g cherry tomatoes, halved
½ small courgette, cut into thin strips
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips


Heat the oven to 150C. Find a heavy-bottomed oven and hob proof dish that fits the chicken in one snug layer. Place this on a medium-high heat, add the cooking oil and the chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin side down. Cook for 8-10 mins, until golden (don’t touch them during this time).

Grate the coconut into a mixing bowl or jug, then add 400ml just-boiled water. Turn the thighs and drumsticks over, remove from the heat for a minute and pour in the coconut water (if you have a can of coconut milk, add at this point instead). Pop the anise, ginger, lime leaves and lemongrass in too, then bake in the oven for 30 mins or so. The chicken will be lovely and tender; the stock a little reduced. Remove the chicken and whisk the stock a bit to bring it together.

In the meantime, make a som tam salad by pounding the shrimp, 1 chilli and the garlic to a paste. Add the lime wedges and bash them to release some juice, then add the nuts and tap to break into rubble. Finally, stir in the rest of the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and tamarind/pomegranate molasses until the sugar is dissolved. Combine the vegetables and sauce in a bowl, allow to sit and macerate for 5 mins or so then decant onto a platter. Top with the rest of the chilli (or leave to one side to add to taste).

About 10 mins into the cooking time of the chicken, put your rice on to cook per packet instructions. Serve, with a little broth spooned over the chicken and the rest in a bowl to drink like a soup.


If you bought a whole chicken and fed just yourself with this meal:

Cooked leg: while still a little warm, strip the meat from the bones and cook on another day, perhaps as part of a chicken noodle soup (see below).

Chicken breasts: store in the freezer or fridge, depending on your situation.

Chicken carcass: cover with cold water, add a halved onion and any vegetables ends you have spare, bring to boil then simmer for an hour. Remove the carcass and reduce the liquid by half. You now have stock! Great to freeze (divided between little freezer bags or ice cubes). Use some of it as a broth for a noodle soup; reheat with another star anise and more ginger for extra flavour.

Aromatic: both ginger and lemongrass last a decent time in the fridge, but you shouldn’t ignore them. Use to spark a bout of cooking. Or just cut a little off at a time to make a calming tea.

Vegetables: courgettes, carrots and tomatoes… many ways to use these, all last for a good number of days in the fridge.

Recipe and image: Ed Smith