Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Best Asian-Style Chicken Salad You've Ever Had. Promise.

I have been making this salad since God knows when. I'm loathe to call it the ubiquitous "Chinese Chicken Salad" - since I'm certain the Chinese don't really have an equivalent - but that's the general idea. The salad is so addictive, that I'll often get in a funk and make little else for days on end until my cravings have been more than satisfied. Load it up with seasonal vegetables, and it's healthy, gorgeous, and (it should go without saying), delicious.

Somewhere along the way, I learned and tweaked a recipe for an Asian-style salad dressing that rivals anything commercially available - it's one of the key elements that make this salad so addictive. And the dressing's secret ingredient? A flavoring packet from a ramen noodle package (not too upscale - but go there! I promise it's worth it!). The second key is the simple soy sauce marinade for the chicken (or tofu - or beef - pick your flavor). My sister taught me the marinade recipe after she returned from a student exchange program in Hawaii. As we all know, the Hawaiians are big fans of SPAM, and this marindate is what they use to flavor the SPAM before frying it up and tucking it into musubi rolls (think sushi with fried SPAM). Not exactly a fan of the canned meat product myself, so I was thrilled to give it a go on more recognizable protein sources and discover just how delicious it is.

The rest is pretty much DYI - add the veggies of your choice, toss a few crunchy toasted almonds and some toasted ramen noodles in there (no sense wasting them!) - and off you go. Dinner heaven.

Asian-Style Chicken Salad
  • Your choice of greens - I like butter lettuce, iceburg lettuce or shredded cabbage.
  • Your choice of chopped veggies - suggestions: bell peppers of all colors, carrots, scallions, red onion, celery, jicama, waterchestnuts, cucumber.
  • Your choice of protein - I like chicken, tofu or beef - soy marinade recipe to follow.
  • Slivered almonds, toasted
  • Ramen noodles, toasted (break apart the brick of raw noodles, crush into small pieces and toast under the broiler); freshly-puffed rice noodles are also excellent!
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Salad dressing, recipe to follow.
Soy Marinade (makes enough for 1 pound of chicken, beef or tofu)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Combine the soy and the sugar; stir until the sugar dissolves. Add chicken, coat completely, and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from fridge about 10 minutes prior to cooking to bring the temperature up a bit. Saute the chicken in a pan over medium-high heat until cooked through; add reserves of the marinade a bit at a time as the chicken cooks to create a glaze.

Asian-Style Salad Dressing
  • 1/4 cup salad oil (I use canola, but vegetable oil works well too)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sugar
  • 1 flavor packet from a package of Oriental-flavored ramen noodles
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
Combine ingredients in a cruet; shake to combine.

1 comment:

  1. This is definitely original, for sure! But I guess there is a reason for me to appreciate that little packet of seasoning from Ramen noodles - I'll never look at it the same way I've looked at it for years!

    Thanks for sharing and for posting! Picture is definitely mouth-watering!!!