This Vietnamese chicken salad (Ga Xe Phay) is burst of Vietnamese flavors. Heart-healthy chicken breast, shredded cabbage, and fresh herbs are tossed a delicious Vietnamese salad dressing. Poached chicken makes this shredded chicken salad extra tender and moist.

Vietnamese chicken salad is garnished with fresh herbs and served with chopsticks.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

When the summer heat is on the rise, a cool and crisp salad seems so refreshing. Southeast Asian dishes are great for that. I love making this simple Vietnamese chicken salad (Ga Xe Phay) with poached chicken breast and cabbage for an easy meal on hot summer days.

Vietnamese salad always offer a tantalizing combination of textures and flavors. Here, crisp and cool cabbage contrasts with the tender and moist shredded chicken breast. And the crunchy roasted peanut and the fried shallots give pleasant bites in the mouth. The fragrance of herbs, mint and cilantro, and the sweet-sour-and salty Vietnamese salad dressing (Nuoc Mam) made with fish sauce are just perfect to bind all together.

Getting the chicken moist and tender is the key for this salad. I used chicken breast. If you boil the chicken breast in water just to cook, your chicken can be dry and tough, and often has gamey smell. You don’t want that, so poach the breast instead. You will be pleasantly surprised at the moist and tender result.

Yummy Vietnamese chicken salad is served on a green plate with fish sauce dressing.

Food can trigger powerful memories. A plate of this Vietnamese chicken salad brings to me all the wonderful memories of places in Vietnam and the Mekong Delta region that my family and I traveled to many years ago.

Enjoy this chicken salad as is, or serve with Vietnamese noodles (rice vermicelli) for an even more satisfying meal. You will taste Vietnam without flying there!

Tips for making best Vietnamese chicken salad

  • Use poached chicken breast – It’s important to have tender and moist chicken for this salad. The poaching method works the best to achieve that. Chicken breasts are plunged into a boiling hot stock first. Then after short time, the pot is removed from the heat and chicken is left to cook in the residual heat.
  • Crisp-up the salad vegetables – soak the shredded cabbage and carrot in cold water for a few minutes.
  • Use palm sugar if you can find – or use brown sugar
  • Use Rice vermicelli noodles if you want your salad to be more filling, but it is optional.

Palm Sugar for Vietnamese salad dressing

Palm sugar is widely used in making Vietnamese salad dressing. It is a sweetener extracted from the palm tree. This unrefined sugar is commonly used in many southeastern Asian cuisines. The golden color of palm sugar resembles brown sugar or turbinado sugar, but it has a taste more similar to caramel or butterscotch.

You can find solid palm sugar in most Asian grocery stores or you can purchase it online. I recommend palm sugar for any Vietnamese recipes, especially for Vietnamese style salad, for its unique sweetness. You can, however, substitute with brown sugar with the same amount if palm sugar is not available.

How to soften palm sugar:

  • Palm sugar comes in solid chunks or blocks in the package when you purchase it. To soften, wet the palm sugar with some water, and put it in a small microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 30-45 seconds or until it softens. Use the softened palm sugar immediately.
  • If you want to keep the palm sugar in a liquid or paste form, add a tablespoon of water to 3 pieces of wet palm sugar, and heat in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Keep the softened palm sugar in an airtight container. If the sugar solidifies again, just microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften it again.

How to make Vietnamese chicken salad (Ga Xe Phay)

Step 1: Poach chicken breast

  • Add a few thin slices of ginger in a pot of water. Bring to boil.
  • Add the chicken, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from heat, and leave chicken breast to stand with lid on for 20 minutes or longer.
  • Shred the chicken breast.

Step 2: Crisp-up Salad Vegetables

  • Soak shredded cabbage, carrot, and onion in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then drain. The cold water will crisp up the vegetables and keep them fresh. It also helps onion to taste mellower.
  • If you don’t use the crisped salad vegetables right away, keep them in the refrigerator until ready.

Step 3: Make Vietnamese fish sauce dressing (Nuoc Mam)

  • Add boiling water to softened palm sugar (or brown sugar) and let the sugar dissolve. Add the garlic, chili, fish sauce, vinegar, and lime juice, and stir well.
  • Combine shredded chicken, salad vegetables, and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Pour about 1/3 cup of dressing to the salad and toss well. Add more dressing to get your preferred taste.
Shredded chicken, fresh herbs, and roasted peanuts makes a great Vietnamese chicken salad

How to serve Vietnamese chicken salad

Garnish salad with chopped peanuts and crisp-fried shallots (if using) and serve immediately. This shredded chicken salad is a great for low carb dieters. If you don’t mind the carb, serve this chicken salad over Vietnamese vermicelli noodles for a more satisfying meal. It makes a great chicken noodle salad.

Try Other Summer Salad Recipes

Easy Vietnamese chicken salad made with shredded chicken breast, cabbage, herbs, and roasted peanut.

Best Vietnamese Chicken Salad Recipe (Ga Xe Phay)

This easy Vietnamese chicken salad is made with shredded chicken breast, cabbage, herbs, and roasted peanuts. Vietnamese salad dressing (Nuoc Mam) made with fish sauce brings a refreshing Vietnamese flavor.
5 from 4 ratings

Ingredients

For salad

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 4 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cup mixed fresh herbs such as cilantro and mint, chopped
  • 3 tbsp roasted peanut, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp fried shallot

For fish sauce dressing (nuoc mam)

  • 4 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 fresh red chili, minced
  • 3 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Instructions 

  • To poach chicken breast, add a few thin slices of ginger in a pot of water. Bring to boil. Add the chicken, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, and leave chicken breast to stand with lid on for 20 minutes or longer. Shred the chicken breast; set aside.
  • To make the fish sauce dressing, Put palm sugar (or brown sugar) in a small mixing bowl. Add boiling water to dissolve the sugar. Add the garlic, chili, fish sauce, vinegar, and lime juice, and stir well.
  • To assemble the salad, combine shredded chicken, salad vegetables, and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Pour about 1/3 cup of dressing to the salad and toss well. Add more dressing to get your preferred taste.
  • Garnish salad with chopped peanuts and crisp-fried shallots (if using) and serve immediately.
Calories: 202kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 17g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 36mg, Sodium: 1390mg, Potassium: 616mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 3286IU, Vitamin C: 50mg, Calcium: 67mg, Iron: 1mg
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