I love Chinese Chicken Salad, and I have to say that this cliche all-American Chinese dish sits right up there with the rest of the western classics – like the good ol’ ceasar or the hearty cobb.
What I love most about the salad is the texture
It’s all about the thinly chopped, watery Iceberg lettuce, sprinkles of fried noodles, shredded chicken (vs. chopped), baby bites of mandarin oranges, and of course, the toasty sesame seeds. It’s crispy, it’s crunchy, and has the perfect hint of sweet.
Problem is – it’s not the most nourishing bowl of greens.
In fact, I remember how “processed” this ol’ family potluck dish used to be – sometimes with raw Top Ramen noodles and sprinkles of the foil-pouch MSG flavoring. Definitely the Betty Crocker version to the Pan-Asian invention.
Inspired by my recent reflection on how to encourage our parents (and elders) to live healthy too, I decided that this recipe makeover salad would be a perfect way to commemorate my hapa mixed, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese roots. Our recent eBook release, Eat Real Essentials is all about helping folks see the benefit of a whole, foods diet, but the real fun is cleaning up our childhood favorites and keeping them a tradition.
Here’s the difference:
- swapped the Iceberg for a heartier blend of leaves – thinly sliced napa cabbage, purple cabbage, and bok choy
- added a few extra veggies, like snap peas and cucumbers
- kept the mandarin oranges, but they are fresh (not canned) and can easily be swapped for oranges if it’s easier to find
- swapped fried noodles for toasted almonds
- kept the sesame seeds, but like the look of black ones better!
- poached a whole chicken in water and ginger (then saved the broth for something else)
- came up with a whole, new dressing – still using toasted sesame oil, but making it super fresh with cilantro, ginger, a carrot, and even half of a cucumber – all thrown into a blender (or food processor)
Use it for on-the-go lunches, bring it to a work potluck, or serve it up at your next BBQ. Enjoy!
3 cups purple cabbage, shaved or thinly sliced
3 cups napa cabbage, shaved or thinly sliced
2 cups bok choy, thinly sliced
1 cup sweet peas, roughly chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
3 mandarins or satsumas (or 2 oranges, peeled and chopped)
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup raw/unhulled sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
Easy Ginger Poached Chicken
1 whole chicken
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced
Pinch of sea salt
1 small carrot
1/2 cucumber, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup cilantro (stems included)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
- To prepare the chicken, rinse it thoroughly and place in a large pot. Cover with water and add sliced ginger and a generous pinch of sea salt. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce over medium/low heat for about 45 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Use tongs to carefully transfer chicken from the pot to a large dish to cool for ~15 minutes. De-skin and shred with two forks, then set aside. NOTE: The flavorful broth can be used for a soup later this week! Don’t throw it out.
- While the chicken is cooking, prepare the leafy purple cabbage, napa cabbage, and bok choy by slicing thinly with a sharp knife or using a mandolin. Then, chop/cube/slice the sweet peas, cucumber, satsumas, cilantro, and green onions. These are the key ingredients to creating a texture AND nutrient-rich salad.
- Toast sesame seeds by placing them in a small frying pan over medium heat. After a few short minutes (be careful not to burn), you will notice a toasty smell and hear light pops – this is a sure sign to remove them from the heat and place them into a dish to cool. Set aside.
- Roughly chop the almonds and place them in a toaster oven or regular oven at 400 degrees until toasted. Set aside.
- Prepare the dressing by throwing everything into a blender or food processor. Taste and add more sea salt, lemon, or honey to your liking.
- When you are ready to serve, use a pair of tongs and large bowl to toss salad ingredients with dressing. If you know that you will use some for leftovers, keep the ingredients separate and toss before serving (or in the morning before packing it up for lunch).