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Crispy chicken thighs with herbed noodle salad

Chicken thighs are the basis of many of our favourite meals. Whether making curries, or chicken skewers, or stir fries, or stews, I love the succulence you get from thighs.

marinate chicken thighs

I didn’t think about it until I was going to post this, but while I cook them in many different types of dishes, they’re always diced. Without thinking about it, I think I’ve treated them more like cheaper cuts of beef for example, that are delicious diced and braised, but that you wouldn’t pan fry like a steak.

add sliced vegetables and herbs to noodles

And the truth is that they tend to look a bit messy compared to chicken breasts – they have more fat, more sinew, and are made up of lots of different muscles that I thought might not cook evenly. I’ve certainly worried that frying a whole thigh might leave it raw in the centre.

finished salad

The solution is to simply be very patient – leave it on the first side for longer than you think, let it get browner than usual, don’t have the heat too high; and if you really want crisp, use the simple technique of weighting the meat down with an extra pan. I haven’t tried it, but this would also be fabulous barbecued I think.

weigh chicken down while cooking

The result is crisp, juicy, deliciously flavoured meat that goes beautifully with the cool noodle salad. The salad is both easy and flexible, as you use the other half of the marinade to make the dressing, and add whatever vegetables you prefer – I always include cucumber and mint, but add whatever I have after that.

Do you fry whole chicken thighs? If so, what sort of flavouring do you use?

crisp chicken thighs

Crispy chicken thighs with cucumber mint noodle salad

Adapted slightly from a Bill Granger recipe

  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (depending on size)
  • 3 Tbs fish sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large red chilli
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs lime juice
  • 2-3 Tbs caster sugar (extra)
  • 200g fine rice (vermicelli) noodles
  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers
  • 4 radishes/100g snow peas/bunch asparagus (optional)
  • large handful mint leaves
  • large handful coriander leaves (optional)
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1/4 cup cashews or peanuts
  • oil for frying ie peanut, rice bran, grape-seed etc

Trim excess fat from the thighs. Whisk together the fish sauce, crushed garlic, finely chopped chilli, sugar and pepper. Put half the marinade in a container or ziplock bag with the chicken, and marinate for 20 minutes to overnight in the fridge.

Add the lime juice and 2 Tbs extra sugar to the remaining marinade and taste, adding extra sugar/lime/fish sauce to ensure a balance of sweet, sour, salt and heat.

Soak or cook noodles according to packet directions. Halve cucumber lengthways and slice diagonally, slice spring onions and other vegetables if using (cook briefly first for asparagus), roughly chop herbs, and combine them all with drained noodles.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in a large heavy pan over medium heat, and add the chicken thighs in a single layer. Cook until dark brown before turning to cook the other side. I weight the chicken with another frying pan so it browns more evenly, but this is optional (if you want to weight on both sides, make sure you wash the bottom of the pan that has touched the raw chicken before weighting the other side). Cook on the second side until browned, and the chicken is cooked – about six minutes per side, but cut into it to check if you’re not sure. Remove from the heat and rest the chicken for a few minutes.

Dress the salad, and sprinkle with the chopped nuts.  Slice the chicken across the grain, and serve on the noodle salad.