Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lea's Chinese Chicken Salad

I love Chinese Chicken Salad and could probably eat it every day. I make it a lot, but I keep forgetting to take a picture of it so I can post the recipe properly. And, finally I remembered to ask my friend who was visiting to shoot a photo, because photography is not one of my talents. 

I'm sure you have all had many variations of Chinese Chicken Salad - they are even selling it premade at Costco and most grocery store deli counters. But, this recipe is the family favorite. My mother was the one who first made it and I've tweaked it over the year adding mustard as it helps the dressing emulsify and the garlic, which I think adds depth of flavor. It has since been the number one requested dish that I am asked to bring whenever there is a family gathering and the most requested recipe every Chinese New Year when I serve it to my friends for good luck. 

As you can see from the photograph, I make it kind of like a chopped salad as it is much easier to eat if everything is in little pieces. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd. Be sure not to toss it with dressing until right before you eat it if you are using iceberg lettuce. But if you are using Napa Cabbage, it needs at least 15 minutes to let the cabbage absorb the flavors and stays fairly crisp even the next day. So, if it is going to be sitting for awhile, be sure to use the Napa Cabbage. It's full of other good things too - cucumber, pea pods, Mandarin oranges, red pepper, green onions. And, it can be topped with almonds, peanuts and/or sesame seeds. You can also add fried rice noodles or Won Ton wrappers cut into strips and deep fried although they both get soggy fast. You can also store bought crispy Chow Mein noodles or even broken up uncooked Ramen noodles if you want. But I have to admit that I don't add any of the noodles to my salad. This is a great salad recipe and I hope you try it.

Lea's Chinese Chicken Salad

1 large head iceberg lettuce, torn into small pieces (can also use ½ head of Napa Cabbage, chopped into small pieces)
1 small red pepper (or ½ big one) cut into small pieces (about the size of a nickel)
1/2 pound chicken breast, simmered in boiling water for 2o minutes, cooled and then cut into small chunks
1 11 oz. can Mandarin Oranges, drained (can also use a cut up Navel Orange or large tangerine)
A handful of blanched snow pea pods (strings removed) cut in half
1 cucumber, peeled, cut in half, deseeded with a spoon and cut into ¼” wide half moons
¼ - about 4 - 5 chopped green onions cut up into small pieces
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Garnish with 1/3 cup finely chopped peanuts or almond and/or 2 - 3 Tablespoons of toasted Sesame Seeds

Optional: 2 cups crispy rice noodles or deep fried Won Ton wrappers cut in strips (either or both fried in hot oil and drained beforehand) or Crispy Chow Mein Noodles from a package.


5 tablespoons Soy Sauce (or Tamari)
3 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons toasted Sesame Oil
2 Tablespoons Safflower Oil
1 scant teaspoon Chinese Mustard (can also use Dijon)
1 clove garlic, minced
Fresh ground pepper - about 1/4 teaspoon


In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and safflower oil, garlic and mustard. Taste and adjust seasoning and flavoring as desired. This makes 3/4 cup of dressing or enough for a big salad! Dressing keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, chicken, cucumbers, green onions, Mandarin Oranges, pea pods and red pepper pieces along with the cilantro leaves. Add half the dressing, tossing to lightly coat. Taste, and toss in additional dressing as desired. Sprinkle with peanuts or almonds and sesame seeds. Serve immediately if using lettuce. For Napa Cabbage, dress, toss and let sit for at least 15 minutes to let the cabbage absorb the flavors.

Five Element Analysis

Salads are always part of the Fire Element and this becomes a very Fiery dish if you use lettuce and the red pepper brings in even more Fire. The chicken contributes the Wood Element along with the Mandarin Oranges, pea pods and vinegar. The Water Element is represented by the soy sauce sesame oil and sesame seeds. The Earth Element is served by the sugar, cucumbers, Napa Cabbage, and the peanuts or almonds. The cilantro and green onions makes sure the Metal Element is covered too. Guess what? This is a balanced meal all by itself!

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