Every cool, crunchy and refreshing bite of a homemade Asian-inspired chicken salad is the perfect antidote for the premature South Louisiana heat, which, no surprise to any of us here in Baton Rouge, seems here to stay. The assembly of this fresh salad is fast and easy – doable even during the nasty end-of-school rush I find myself in. It’s substantial enough to serve as a main course, and if you accessorize it with some store bought (or homemade) spring rolls, then, well, look at that. You’re done.
To pull off Asian chicken salad, you just need three components: shredded chicken, raw vegetables and an acidic dressing. Okay, maybe four, if you include the fresh herbs and peanuts for garnish. Incorporate remaining ingredients into a second dish – Asian chicken noodle soup.
Chicken. You need about 2 cups to serve 4-6 people. Figure 1/2 cup or less per person. Secure yourself a fresh rotisserie chicken, or poach or roast a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Nothing to it.
Raw vegetables. Shredded cabbage (Napa or Savoy) and carrots work great because they maintain nice texture even when an acidic, salty dressing “sweats them out.” I also like thinly sliced cucumbers, daikon and radishes. You need about 3 cups total.
Dressing. Lots of options here. Experiment with a combination of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, oils (canola and sesame), fresh ginger and garlic. You could add a little heat as well, like red chili flakes or a small amount of chili garlic paste. Or, if you like fish sauce, an important ingredient in Vietnamese cooking, try this formula from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Quick and Easy Vietnamese by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books). It’s the dressing McDermott uses in her yummy chicken and cabbage salad with fresh mint.
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar, or fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon black pepper
Assemble your three components and toss well. Then garnish with herbs and nuts (or another crunchy element) and serve.
If you have leftover chicken and vegetables — and you will with a rotisserie chicken — combine with sautéed aromatic vegetables, good quality chicken stock and the noodle of your choice (egg, udon or soba all work well). Before serving, add a dash of any remaining dressing, soy sauce or fish sauce and a squirt of fresh lime. Top with chopped green onions or shredded carrots and fresh herbs (basil, mint or cilantro).