Over the last few months our recipes have explored a variety of flavors. Today our recipe goes to China for a Chinese Chicken Salad. Itís probably more accurate to say Chinese American Chicken Salad as salads of this sort are not common in China, but here in the States they are a favorite on restaurant menus. The combination of crisp vegetables, crunchy nuts, and tasty Asian flavors in the dressing is a time tested winner.
The salad is made up of bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, red peppers, and scallions. Mung bean spouts are frequently used in Asian dishes, both raw and cooked, and in stir fries. They are a good source of protein, essential fatty acids, alpha and beta carotene, and other vitamins and minerals. One cup offers an astounding 41% of the daily requirement of Vitamin K.
Sugar snap peas have a naturally sweet taste a crisp texture. They, too, are good cooked and raw. For this recipe they can be used whole or cut into strips to match the size of the peppers. They come in at only 41 calories per cup and are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and a healthy amount of fiber.
The dressing is full bodied and rich in flavor. Toasted sesame oil and hoisin sauce add authenticity and a depth of flavor to the dish. Rice wine vinegar keeps things light and bright. Five spice powder, a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and peppercorns contributes a balanced sensation to all five tastes while mustard powder offers just a little heat for interest.
Fresh cilantro adds nutrients, vitamins, and a wonderful fresh herbal taste. A neutral vegetable oil is used instead of a stronger flavored oil so as not to compete with the delicate flavor balance. This dressing is so delicious. It can be used on other vegetables, such as broccoli or asparagus, and served hot or cold.
The salad is enhanced with a sprinkling of nuts; cashews, peanuts, or slivered almonds. Cashews are a source of the same oleic acid that is found in olive oil. Lower in fat than most nuts, cashews offer a source of protein and add a salty, crunchy element.
Chow mein noodles are an optional garnish. A variety of textures are achieved from this one ingredient by adding half with the dressing where it soaks in some flavors, and half at the end to remain crisp.
Lean chicken is shredded for texture. The chicken can be poached, roasted, or grilled. In a pinch, use a purchased rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed.
This salad can easily be made vegetarian. The salad is filling enough to satisfy with or without the addition of chicken, while the bean sprouts and nuts add some protein.
The prepared vegetables and chicken are tossed with the dressing and allowed to absorb some of the dressing. They then top fresh, crispy Napa cabbage or iceberg lettuce. If you havenít tried Napa cabbage you are in for a treat. Napa cabbage is sweet and mild without the strong taste associated with many cabbages. One cup of raw cabbage is less than 20 calories. It is high in fiber, Vitamins A and C and has a high calcium content. Besides being eaten raw, Napa cabbage is also frequently used in stir fries and cooked dishes.
Iceberg lettuce could be used in place of the Napa cabbage, if desired. It is not nutrient dense, but does add low calorie bulk and fiber that help you to feel satisfied.
Try this salad for a nice change of pace. And be sure to try the dressing on other vegetables or as the base for stir fry; itís really delicious!
Cut the green tops of the scallions into fine slices. Julienne the red peppers. The snow peas can be julienned or left whole.
Put everything in a large bowl with the bean sprouts, cilantro, nuts, ĺ cup of the chow mein noodles, and the chicken and toss to mix.
In a separate bowl, mix the mustard, soy, vinegar, hoisin sauce, 5 spice powder, and sugar. Mix well to dissolve the sugar and spices.
Add the toasted sesame oil and the vegetable oil, whisking well to emulsify.
Pour over the chicken and vegetables; toss well so that everything is coated. At this point the salad could be covered and chilled or used immediately.
Shred the cabbage or lettuce. Mound it on a large platter. Top with the chicken mixture. Sprinkle the remaining chow mein noodles over the salad. Enjoy!