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Chinese Chicken Salad


I subscribe to Wine Spectactor’s free email list that occasionally sends out recipes.  I haven’t had too much luck with these recipes though as they all tend to be French and quite fancy.   Basically, that translates to 10+ ingredients and 10+ steps and I’m too lazy to try most of them.  The ones I have tried, such as Gougères (French Cheese Puffs), turned out quite well but I did need additional guidance from other sources.  In the most recent newsletter, I was quite surprised to see a recipe of Szechuan Chicken Salad, which looked so easy  I would have felt ashamed to not give it a go.

Chinese Chicken Salad is not an authentic Chinese dish, assuming you didn’t already know that from the fact that McDonald’s serves it.  It is certainly Chinese-inspired, particularly by making use of  ingredients commonly used in Szechuan cuisine (garlic, ginger, chili peppers, and sesame oil) in the soy dressing.  This is a irresistibly crunchy and tangy salad that is super easy to prepare.  I didn’t really change the recipe except for adding some carrots and Mandarin oranges for color and toasted peanuts (which I had leftover from my Szechuan Braised Rabbit with Tofu and Peanuts) for extra crunch.  Like most salads, the recipe is very flexible, so feel free to throw in any toppings you wish!  I listed a few suggestions for some popular toppings below.  I really loved the dressing and think I might make a whole bottle to just store in the fridge.

Napa cabbage I think is the best for Chinese Chicken Salads, but other cabbage type or iceberg lettuce could work just as well.  I think dark leafy greens take away from the crunchy texture and flavors, but if you do use those types of greens, maybe throw in some bean sprouts to achieve ideal crunchiness levels!

For another fruity chicken salad idea, try a Lady Marmalade Chicken Salad.

Chinese Chicken Salad (adapted from Wine Spectator)

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts (3 large breast halves or 4 medium halves)
  • 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 12 oz Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, white part and 1 inch of the green, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 T cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large jalapeño, or 2 small, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 T ginger, minced
  • Optional toppings:
    • Wonton wrappers, shredded and fried
    • Chinese rice noodles, fried
    • Dry ramen noodles, broken (croutons college student style!)
    • Sesame seeds
    • Toasted peanuts
    • Almond slivers
    • Mandarin orange slices
    • etc etc etc

Directions:

Bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil.  Add the chicken breasts.  Cover and return the water to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let the chicken stand 20 minutes.  Strain the chicken, and cool completely.  (Basically, the same easy method to make shredded chicken for enchiladas!)

Meanwhile, combine the celery, carrots, cabbage, scallions and cilantro in a large mixing bowl.  Toss, and reserve until ready to use.

Whisk the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, pepper and sesame oil in a small bowl.  Add the jalapeño, garlic and ginger.  Season with salt.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

Once the chicken is completely cooled, strain and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.  Add the chicken to the reserved vegetables. Toss to combine, and let stand 5 minutes.

Drizzle the soy dressing over the salad, and toss.  Let the salad stand another 5 minutes.

Top off the salad with a few Mandarin oranges to add some sweetness, as well as something crunchy like toasted peanuts, almonds, fried wonton strips, rice noodles, or even break off some pieces of dry ramen noodles.

Toss, serve, and enjoy!

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