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Beat the heat with Vietnamese chicken salad

If you’re considering getting Vietnamese food for dinner, but summertime temperatures make a steaming bowl of soup the size of your head off-putting, consider goi ga.

It’s Vietnamese chicken salad, but don’t think mayonnaise.

Instead, imagine a mound of crispy raw vegetables including cabbage sliced paper-thin, shredded carrot, white onion, scallions and recao (also called culantro), a long-leaved green herb that tastes much like cilantro. At Pho Dollar, on the West Side, those vitamin-packed vegetables are tossed with shredded poached chicken breast in a light, tangy sauce of lime juice, vinegar and just a pinch of sugar.

Then the salad is crowned with chopped roasted peanuts, dried onion and leaves of mint and Thai basil, which tastes a little like licorice.

There is an accompanying small bowl of sweetened fish sauce, but you don’t have to apply it to be happy.

The result is a refreshing salad that does not involve mayonnaise, oil or deep-fried proteins. “It’s not a fat food,” said Pho Dollar owner William Mai.

In Vietnam, Mai said, salads like goi ga are eaten year-round, by itself as a meal, or served with other dishes for a group of diners.

It goes for $9.95 at his air-conditioned restaurant, near the corner of West Ferry and Grant streets. Other versions are available, one with shrimp instead of chicken (goi tom, $11.95), and another shredded pork and shrimp (goi tom thit, $11.95).

It might be something to remember the next time beastly heat has you wondering where to find some cool chow.

Info: Pho Dollar, 322 W. Ferry St. (768-0049).