Chinese Chicken Salad has undergone many iterations since it became a popular dish in the United States early last century. One thing is certain: none of the versions appearing on US menus originated in China, where raw vegetable salads were (and are not) a prominent part of the Chinese diet. In fact, the sesame-ginger version may have come into being in California. But the ability of a dish to be adapted according to cultural preference, taste, and availability of ingredients is a key factor in its ultimate adoption, and each new dish added to a repertoire paves the way for ones that follow. So, even if this cross-cultural creation is not “authentic,” the combination of garlic, ginger, sesame, scallions, and soy sauce is unmistakably Asian.
This is a light dinner-time salad that somehow satisfies even the heartiest of teenage appetites. And, if that cilantro in your herb garden is nearing its peak, you can use some of it here.
Chinese Chicken Salad
4 chicken breast halves (1.5-2 lb.), sliced in half horizontally
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
1/4 c. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. mirin (or dry sherry + pinch of sugar)
6 c. thinly shredded green cabbage
1/2 c. sliced scallions (about 3 scallions)
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 carrots, grated
1 English cucumber, washed but unpeeled, diced into small pieces
1.5 thinly sliced hearts of romaine (about 6 c.)
1/2 c. toasted sliced almonds
chow mein noodles (optional)
6 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
6 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. dry ground ginger, or 1/2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1.5 tbsp. sesame oil
6 tbsp. canola oil
sprinkle chilli flakes/crushed red pepper
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Marinate chicken in marinade for about 15-30 minutes.
Toast sesame seeds in large frying pan; remove from pan and set aside. Add about a tablespoon of canola oil to the pan and cook chicken over high heat. Remove from pan, place on a cutting board, and let cool.
Add salad ingredients (except chow mein noodles) to large salad bowl; sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. When chicken is cool, cut across the grain into bite-sized strips and add to salad bowl.
Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Toss to combine and serve immediately, with chow mein noodles on the side (if desired).