Learning to cook with Asian flavours is all about getting the hang of a balance between sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. The key to this light South East Asian meal is to use lots of fresh herbs. If you don’t like coriander, use basil or more mint. This recipe was supplied by Annabel Langbein, The Free Range Cook appearing on Foxtel’s LifeStyle FOOD.

Prep time 15 mins for salad and 5 mins for chicken
Cook time 8-10 mins + cooling for chicken
Serves 6

For the salad
1 aromatic poached chicken
1 iceberg lettuce
2 carrots
1 telegraph cucumber or 2-3 lebanese cucumbers
2 spring onions
3 handfuls mung bean sprouts
A handful of snow peas
50g dried fine rice or bean thread noodles
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup peanuts, roasted
A handful each of mint and coriander leaves
Peanut sauce to serve (optional)

For the aromatic poached chicken
6 single chicken breasts
8 thin slices fresh ginger
3-4 whole star anise or a pinch of five-spice powder
1 tsp sesame oil
1 spring onion
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns

For the instant Asian dressing
2 kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped, or finely grated zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce

Cut or tear chicken into thick chunks and tear lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces
Peel carrots and cut into matchsticks or shave into strips using a vegetable peeler
Peel and deseed cucumber and cut into matchsticks or slice on the diagonal into chunks
Cut spring onions lengthwise into matchsticks
Place prepared chicken and vegetables in a large salad bowl with bean sprouts and snow peas
Prepare noodles according to packet instructions. Drain, cool, chop into short lengths and add to the salad.
Note: The salad can be prepared ahead of time to this stage and stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 8 hours until needed.

Aromatic poached chicken
Place chicken breasts in a pot that holds them snugly in a single layer
Add all other ingredients and enough cold water to cover the chicken by 5cm (about 2 finger joints)
Bring just to a simmer then cover and simmer for 1 minute only Remove from heat and leave to cool for about 1½ hours without removing the lid
When ready to use, strain poaching liquid and reserve for later use as stock. Discard the chicken skin and shred the flesh into chunky pieces or slice as preferred.
Note: Chicken can be poached up to 2 days ahead, cooled and stored in its poaching broth in the fridge until needed, but poached chicken (or any cooked chicken) is more tender if it has not been chilled as chilling will set the flesh.

Instant Asian dressing
To make the instant Asian dressing, shake together lime leaves or zest, lemon juice, sweet chilli sauce and fish sauce in a small jar
Just before serving, toss dressing and sesame seeds through the salad and season to taste with salt and ground black pepper
Sprinkle with peanuts, mint and coriander leaves and drizzle with peanut sauce (optional).

For more great Annabel Langbein recipes, see annabel-langbein.com