#FRD2014 – part trois – chinese chicken salad

I have been making this salad for, well, decades (!), A number of years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend several Julys on Coronado Island. One of the very fun things to do was to listen to the San Diego Pops and watch fireworks. At the venue, you could bring a picnic dinner and enjoy the show. We also were able to enjoy the company of a lovely lady – Ella Mae Wright. She’s the one that provided this recipe, as well as my first taste of this delicious salad.

For this year’s Food Revolution Day, I posted my contribution of a classic roast chicken. I offered up a few ideas for what to do with leftovers (and if you have more people, throw in another chicken! – it’s just as easy to roast 2 as 1 – and you can even think of yourself as virtuous by filling up that oven when it’s turned on). One of those I noted was was Chinese Chicken Salad.

Ella Mae offered a couple of dressing alternatives, and then a list of all manner of ingredients. They can be changed based on your whim, or what’s available. As long as you have a little contrast with color and texture, you’re good to go. The dressing is the key here, to pull it all together.

Chinese Chicken Salad
Napa cabbage
romaine lettuce
fresh spinach
green or red onions
fresh mushrooms
water chestnuts
bamboo shoots
radishes
any color bell pepper
celery
macadamia nuts or toasted sesame seeds
crispy noodles – fried mai fun or chow mein
cooked chicken, or to be a bit more fancy, grilled chicken breasts (hot)

Dressing (can be doubled or tripled – depending on number of servings – don’t skimp)
1/2 t dry mustard (can be increased, or I added 1/4 t wasabi powder)
2 T sugar
2-3 t soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
1/4 c vegetable oil
3-4 T rice vinegar

I like to chop up a bunch of vegetables, keeping them in relatively similar shapes. Since I have both Napa cabbage and romaine lettuce, that dictates that the shapes should be more like long, thin slices rather than chunks. With a chopped salad like this, the vegetable shapes should be relatively similar. I didn’t have everything on the list, but still, plenty of variety of ingredients.

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Each of these gets cleaned, cut and chopped. Choose the ratio of ingredients based on your tastes and what’s on hand. I had planned on cutting up my vegetables, and then saving some of them, undressed, for tomorrow – which is a good strategy if you’re taking lunch to work or school (if you change your mind, throw them into a stir-fry). I julienned the carrots – my favorite method for carrots or zucchini or other summer squash. I pull out the strings from celery prior to cutting it into strips.

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All of the vegetables get layered into a bowl, then mixed so that they are evenly distributed.

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The dressing is mixed together (shaken) – I just do this in a canning/mason jar, so that the remaining dressing can be stored in the jar once I’ve used what I want. All of my notes from the original recipe say to double or triple the dressing – not a bad idea.

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The salad is thrown together – with the noodles, other crispy things if you’re using them, and the chicken. Then dressed to your liking, and then just served. It’s a chopped salad, not composed, but it has it’s own colorful kaleidoscope.

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There’s really nothing ever needed to go with this. The amount I show here is for about 3 (or maybe 4) people, though if there are boys involved, maybe only 2 :). It’s a light, flavorful main dish salad, that is a perfect use of that leftover (or rotisserie) chicken, or even those grilled chicken breasts when you’re looking for a more elegant presentation.

Simple, easy, delicious, a perfect Food Revolution dish to appeal to kids, or kids about to go out on their own.

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