The Best Watermelon Salad
Hot, sour, salty and sweet, this salad is one of my favorite summertime meals. The crunchy fried chicken perfectly compliments the cold, juicy watermelon topped with tart Vietnamese-inspired dressing, fragrant herbs and toasted coconut. It’s the contrast of texture and flavor that I can’t get enough of.
Fried Chicken & Watermelon Salad with Vietnamese-Style Dressing
- 4 boneless chicken thighs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup finely minced scallions
- 2 quarts peanut oil
- 1 cup flour, well seasoned with salt
- 1 cup corn starch
- Sea salt
- 2 personal-sized watermelons
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon garlic passed through a Microplane grater
- 4 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chiles (Serrano works great)
- 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 cup or more of mixed fresh mint, Thai basil and cilantro leaves
- 4 tablespoons crushed toasted peanuts
- 4 tablespoons toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot rings
Cut the chicken thighs into approximately 1-inch pieces. In a non-reactive bowl or Ziploc bag, mix the buttermilk with the minced scallions and cubed chicken. Marinate overnight in the fridge.
For the dressing, whisk together all of the ingredients. Adjust for seasoning (I like this dressing a little tart because it compliments the watermelon).
Heat 2 quarts of peanut oil in a large pot or wok to 375 degrees F.
Drain away the buttermilk, reserve as much of the scallions sticking to the chicken as possible. Whisk together the flour and cornstarch. Dredge the chicken in the mixture. Discard excess flour mix. Fry the chicken in the oil for about 10 to 11 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel and season with sea salt.
Peel and cube the watermelons (or use a melon baller if you prefer). Reserve the melon, divided into four large shallow bowls. Place the chicken on top of the watermelon, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the garnishes. Serve immediately.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.