Chinese/Asian Chicken Salad is a popular dinner salad at my house. Of course, like chop suey, this is a truly American dish and you would never find anything like it in China. The flavorful chicken, crisp vegetables and crunchy noodles of this salad take me back to my childhood and the many church potlucks and American Chinese/Japanese festival food stand offerings.
I have been tinkering with this recipe for years. I used to simply fry the chicken breasts and then slice them. Over time I started to marinate them and then slicing them into thin steaks to increase surface in contact with the marinade. I quick fry the meat and then let it cool completely before I slice it. I also serve it on the side, so people may choose how much they care to add to their salad.
I have settled on wide selection of vegetables for my salad, because I like a lot of variety in color and textures. I also serve crispy fried noodles on the side, again so diners may indulge or not, because it is an integral part of the original dish. I use La Choy Chow Mein Noodles, but if you are feeling ambitious you can make your own.
I have always used Sunbird brand Chinese Chicken Salad Seasoning Mix for my salad dressing, because it makes it taste “right,” but today I decided that I could make my own dressing. I made the mistake of reading the fine print on the Sunbird package to try and deconstruct the recipe. I am pretty sure silicon dioxide (sand) really does not belong in food. I may not be able to use their product again.
Some of the few ingredients that the Sunbird package actually lists are salt, onion and garlic power. The onion power I can see, but I usually prefer fresh when I can. Finely crushed garlic and fresh grated ginger would be the way to go.
As to the other ingredients, “spices” really does not tell me what else is in the mix. I looked at Chinese or “Asian” salad dressings on line. Most of them were simply the “additional ingredients” that you add to the Sunbird seasoning package–oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. All of these base ingredients I would keep, but with no real guide as to the “seasonings” I guess I am on my own to make something up that will please me.
An ingredient that is obvious to anyone who has had Chinese chicken salad is yellow Chinese dry mustard. A bit of Chinese Five Spice power will give it a rounder flavor. Chinese Five Spice is anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and star anise. It is also one of the main ingredients in the hoisin sauce that I am using to marinate the chicken.
The dressing that I have come up with does not taste like Sunbird’s, but it does taste “Chinese.” Many of the recipes added sesame seeds to the dressing, including Sunbird’s. I think that these seeds might get soggy over time, so I intend to toast them and sprinkle them on at the last minute.
Note: If you want to make this recipe Vegan replace the chicken marinate with some very firm tofu.
Karl’s Chinese Chicken Salad
Note: Salad vegetable quantities are to taste.
2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless (firm tofu for Vegan version)
3-4 cups Napa cabbage
½ cup carrots, sliced
½ celery, chopped
½ cup daikon radish
½ cup green onions, sliced
½ cup mung bean sprouts
½ cup sugar snap peas
½ cup red sweet pepper, chopped
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
½ cup crispy fried noodles
1 Tbs. hoisin sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. shaoxing (rice wine)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. grated ginger
½ tsp. white pepper, powdered
¼ tsp. sugar
¼ cup peanut oil (canola oil, if you are allergic)
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. black vinegar
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. Chinese yellow mustard, dry powered
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp. Chinese five spice powder
1. Lay the chicken breasts flat on the cutting board and slice them in half parallel to the board. This produces four thin chicken steaks.
2. Mix all of the marinade ingredients and add the chicken (tofu). Marinate for at least 20 minutes.
3. Mix all of the dressing ingredients into a small jar and let it meld for at least 20 minutes.
4. Heat 1 Tbs. of peanut oil in a large sauté pan and fry the chicken until well browned.
5. Let the chicken cool completely and slice across the grain into bite sized pieces.
6. Rinse and chop the vegetables into bite sized pieces and put them in a large salad bowl.
7. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss well to coat.
8. Put the sesame seed in a small pan and toast them for a minute. Let them cool and then sprinkle them over the salad.
9. Serve the chicken and noodles on the side, so diners may add as much as they wish.
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