Chinese Chicken Salad goes over huge with everyone I serve it to…any time of the year. It’s a standby at our house, for family as well as guests. No occasion needed, although I’ve used it as such, from high school graduations to pot lucks. The recipe is an old one, from back in my Colorado days; first time I’ve actually written it up for a proper recipe – the shabby note card of scribbled ingredients lacked measurements, so here it is all tidy and ready to roll! Simple is the name of the game here, lots of crunchy, aromatic, nutty and sweet flavors and textures tossed together, including a flavorful dressing that really pulls it together. This is one scrumptiously delicious Asian-inspired dish you just might rely on to impress everyone (if you’re like me).
Ingredients can be prepped and made ahead of time, then assembled and tossed on the spot. I admit, I make it mainly in the summer, and it gets plenty of raves, everyone coming back for seconds, so I usually double the recipe.
The dressing used mainly pantry items: Canola oil, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, sugar, salt and black pepper – or Szechuan peppercorns too, if you have them…I love their fragrant smell and taste. Toasted sesame oil has a strong, pungent and nutty taste, which is key in this dressing.
Grill (or bake) chicken breasts. Cool and transfer to the fridge to chill until cold. Then thinly slice, no more than 1/4-inch thick.
The salad: Thinly sliced chicken, slivered almonds, sesame seeds, lettuce – use some cabbage if desired, for more crunch, and crunchy chow mein noodles. Today I used white cabbage because I couldn’t get Napa or Savoy cabbage, which is more delicate (slightly less crunch but still fine). The nice thing is they all work well, so you can use what you like. Always thinly slice or shred the lettuce/cabbage.
Dress the salad right before serving.
Chinese Chicken Salad
Makes 4-6 main course servings
3-4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground Szechuan peppercorns or black pepper
2 heads crisp lettuce and/or cabbage, shredded (about 16 cups)
1 (5-ounce) can crunchy chow mein noodles
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Szechuan peppercorns (or black pepper)
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
Lightly coat the chicken breasts with oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Grill on medium high heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning once – or bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 30 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until cold. Slice on the diagonal, about 3/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until use.
Meanwhile, make the dressing in a jar: secure the lid, shake well and refrigerate until use.
Place the finely shredded lettuce and/or cabbage in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss. Add the chow mein noodles, almonds and sesame seeds; toss well. Serve immediately.
Cook’s Note: Any lettuce and/or cabbage mix (such as white, Napa or Savoy cabbage) can be used.