I have a very high bar when it comes to salads as a meal. That is, a salad as a complete meal, without a big piece of grilled cheese on the side. It helps that I use a simple but ripper of a salad dressing adapted from the legendary David Chang’s cookbook Momofuku.
I rarely share salads so when I do, you can be confident that it’s not just a salad. It’s a salad that’s SO GOOD that even I (whose diet is always starting “next Monday, I promise”) will happily scoff down an enormous bowl of it for dinner and be so satisfied that it makes me wonder why I don’t have salads more often for meals.
Well, I do know why. It’s because salads typically don’t interest me enough to make me want to eat a huge bowl of it for dinner. I always feel the need to have a bread roll or something on the side to fill it out.
But not this one! There is hardly any carbs in this – just a sprinkle of crunchy noodles. Though of course, I thoroughly encourage you to use as much crunchy noodles as you want. There’s no denying it, the more the better. 🙂
Speaking of crunchy noodles, don’t think that I make my own! I just buy them from the supermarket. A packet costs just over $1 and I think of them as Asian croutons – just a sprinkle in salads or even on soups makes such a difference. I use Chang’s – does the packet look familiar? You can get it in the Asian section of supermarkets.
(Psst – also, a quick look at my tip for a fast way to julienne carrots – slice on an angle, fan out overlapping each other than run the knife along, cutting little strips!)
The dressing I use for this is based on David Chang’s Octo Vinaigrette which is in his wildly popular cookbook Momofuku. David Chang is probably the most famous Asian chef in the world and he revolutionised Asian cooking in western countries, in particular in America.
In addition to his signature dishes, including his Momofuku Bosaam, Crack Pie and Pork Belly Bun, his sauces and dressings are exceptional. And many are so simple. It’s just about coming up with the right ratios and combination of ingredients. Even some of the most famous chefs in the world can’t make great Asian salad dressings (no names mentioned…. 🙂 ). But David Chang has mastered it. And I’ve used his recipe for this salad.
Speaking frankly, this salad is as Chinese as fortune cookies (did you know they were invented in America and marketed in China as “Genuine AMERICAN Fortune Cookies”? Cracks me up!). But it’s made with classic Chinese/Asian ingredients and Chinese Chicken Salad is what people know this as. So rather than giving it an obscure name, like “A Chinese-esque Chicken Salad”, I thought I’d stick with the obvious. 🙂
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce (Note 1)
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar (aka rice wine vinegar)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or canola or any other neutral flavored oil)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger , grated or very finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove , minced
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups red cabbage , finely shredded
- 4 cups Chinese cabbage (Nappa Cabbage), finely shredded (Note 2)
- 1 cup carrot , finely shredded
- 2 cups chicken , shredded
- 1/2 cup scallions / shallots , finely sliced on the diagonal
- 1/2 to 1 cup crunchy noodles (I use Chang's) (Note 3)
- 2 tbsp peanuts , roughly chopped
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
Combine the Vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake. Set aside for 10 minutes or so for the flavours to meld.
Place the Salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Drizzle over dressing then toss. (Note 4)
Just prior to serving, sprinkle over most of the crunchy noodles, reserving some for garnish. Toss quickly, then garnish with peanuts, sesame seeds and remaining crunchy noodles and serve immediately.
1. Light soy sauce is lighter in colour and flavor than ordinary soy sauce but is saltier. If you don't have light soy sauce, you can use ordinary but adjust as follows - instead of using 3 tbsp of light soy sauce, use 2 tbsp ordinary soy sauce + 1 tbsp water + 1/4 tsp salt + pinch of sugar.
2. You can substitute with ordinary green cabbage.
3. You can buy crunchy fried noodles in the Asian section of supermarkets. I don't even know if you can get them in Asian grocery stores! They are cheap - just over $1 for a packet. You can use any crunchy fried noodles - thick or thin. I use a brand called Chang's (yellow packet).
4. At this stage, you can serve immediately or set it aside for up to 15 minutes. The cabbage will wilt slightly and that's ok, it takes on a texture a bit similar to coleslaw i.e. a tiny bit limp/pickled. But don't leave it for much longer than 15 minutes otherwise it gets too limp and soggy.
5. If making ahead, keep the dressing separate from the salad until ready to serve.
6. David Chang's original recipe for this Vinaigrette has slightly different ratios for the ingredients, most notably, much less oil. This is because he uses his Vinaigrette for meats and seafood. He notes that it is too tart for salads which is why I increased the oil, mainly by adding sesame oil for the extra sesame flavor. But it is still not as oily as traditional salad dressings which typically have a 1 to 3 ratio of vinegars to oil.
7. Nutrition per serving assuming 3 servings, chicken breast and 1/2 cup of crunchy noodles are used.
PS Dozer assuming his usual position while I photographed, waiting patiently for a piece of chicken to drop on the fall. Didn’t happen. Never does. 🙂