Chinese Chicken Salad
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
There aren’t many salads on a Chinese restaurant menu, but this one, that many do make, rocks! It’s refreshing and zingy at the same time. It makes a perfect lunch or supper when you’re in the mood for something light but satisfying. Cutting the cabbage into bite-size pieces makes the salad easy to eat. The dressing keeps things exciting with bright salt and vinegar on a toasty base of peanuts and sesame oil. This Chinese restaurant classic is easy to make at home. What to Drink: Refresh the palate with a cold beer.
Makes6 to 8 lunch entrée servings
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party
Recipe CourseCold Appetizer, Main Course
Dietary ConsiderationDiabetic, Egg-free, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Low Carb, Soy Free
Taste and TextureHerby, Light, Meaty, Nutty, Savory, Spiced, Tangy
Type of DishFirst Course Salad, Main Course Salad
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves or thighs, about 6 ounces each
- 3 coins fresh ginger, about ¼ inch thick, plus 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 whole scallions, plus 3 scallions, sliced thin on a diagonal
- Kosher salt
- ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon natural-style peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- 1 teaspoon sambal oelek or red chili paste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head Napa cabbage
- ½ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
Put the chicken, ginger coins, whole scallions, and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan. Cover generously with cold water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, use your fingers or two forks to shred the meat. If you used thigh meat, you may need to cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Set the chicken aside. (To make ahead, cover and refrigerate the chicken for up to 5 hours.)
While the chicken cooks, combine the sesame and peanut oils, vinegar, lime juice, brown sugar, peanut butter, the 1 tablespoon grated ginger, the garlic, shallots, sambal oelek, and ½ teaspoon salt in a blender. Add pepper and additional salt to taste. Set the dressing aside. (To make ahead, cover and refrigerate the dressing for up to 24 hours.)
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut off and discard about 1 inch at the bottom. Remove and discard the core. Rinse the leaves and spin dry, then cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then crosswise into slices 1/8 to ¼ inch thick.
Just before serving, put the cabbage in a large salad bowl along with the peanuts, sesame seeds, cilantro, the sliced scallions, and the shredded chicken. Pour about two thirds of the dressing over the salad and toss gently, adding dressing as needed to lightly coat everything. Mound the salad on dinner plates to serve.
Chef's Tip: Poach chicken gently with aromatics to keep it moist and flavorful for a salad.
For a more authentic Chinese restaurant taste and added crunch, top the salad with fried cellophane noodles. Heat about an inch of peanut oil to 375°F in a wok or large saucepan over high heat. Test the oil by dropping in a single noodle strand; it should immediately puff and turn golden. Add a 2-ounce package of bean thread noodles to the oil, a handful at a time, nudging them into the oil using a Chinese strainer or tongs just until the noodles puff and begin to turn golden. Carefully transfer the noodles as they puff to a plate covered with paper towels. Top the salad with the fried noodles just before serving.
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2008 Joey Altman