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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chinese Chicken Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing

I created this recipe for my fellow Shanghai Mamas. I'm re-posting the recipe and article I wrote for them here.

When I first arrived in China, cooking and feeding my family seemed like a big conundrum. What the heck was I supposed to make with only a two burner stove and a tiny toaster oven? Now over 2 ½ years later, cooking in China has become an exciting culinary challenge. Yes, there might be things that I miss here and there, but by in large it has been wonderful to reinvent my cooking style using a lot less packaged and processed foods. Learning to utilize all the fresh ingredients here has meant not only saving money, but feeding my family healthier meals.

 One thing I especially enjoy about China is the seasonality of the fruits and vegetables. Right now for example, the júzi or mandarin oranges are in the peak of season as evidenced by the truckloads of them on nearly every street corner. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the dried peel of the mandarin orange is supposed to aid in digestion, but I opt for using the juicy sweet inner sections of the fruit.

 While walking through my local wet market with my boys a few weeks ago I noticed that the place where we buy yóutiáo also sells fried wonton strips or yóu sàn zi in the afternoon. We bought some for a snack and my boys happily crunched on them for the rest of the shopping trip. I thought about them days later and how perfect they would be on a salad. That along with the plentiful mandarin oranges served as my inspiration to create this recipe. I also included sweet roasted almonds which add lovely color and additional crunch. If you haven’t tried the sweet roasted almonds this salad is the perfect excuse to go out and buy some. I promise you will be addicted! You can find them at any of your local nut shops, although the best ones I’ve ever had came from a Xinjiangese street peddler.

 The name of the recipe might be a misnomer as I’m not sure I know of any zhōngguórén who would actually try this salad. A fact that was further demonstrated to me as I had to buy the ingredients three different times because my darling ayi kept cooking the lettuce and peas! The ginger sesame dressing for this salad is tangy and sweet; almost a vinaigrette. This recipe takes some traditional Chinese flavors and ingredients that you might find in your average vegetable dish and gives them a light and fresh twist.

 Chinese Chicken Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing

Ginger Sesame Dressing

2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients and mix until salt and sugar have dissolved.

Chinese Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
2 heads of green leaf lettuce
½ cup snow or sugar snap peas
¼ cup sweet roasted almonds, chopped
4-5 peeled, sectioned, mandarin oranges
wonton strips or yóu sàn zi (found in local markets, or at Carrefour near the baozi)

In a skillet on low/medium heat, heat 1 tbsp oil. When hot, add two chicken breasts. Pan fry for 5 minutes until slightly browned. Turn and pan fry on the other side until browned. The chicken will be done when the meat is no longer pink in the center. Cover and let the chicken breasts rest for 5 minutes. (When meat cooks the juices are pulled to the surface of the meat. Resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in your meat being juicier and less dry). After chicken has rested, chop up meat and sprinkle with salt. Shell and chop up the almonds. Wash and tear up lettuce. Wash the peas and remove the stems. Place lettuce, chopped chicken, peas, and almonds in a bowl and toss together. Add oranges and wonton strips and gently toss. Serve with Ginger Sesame Dressing.

*Alterations: if you have soy sensitivity, substitute ½ tsp salt for the soy sauce. If you want to make it vegetarian, just omit the chicken.

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