How to make a Chinese chicken salad

One of the first and most important lessons you learn in cooking is the importance of mise en place – everything in its place. It’s a great idea. You measure and prep all the ingredients so when you start cooking, everything is to hand and there’s no nasty surprises.

But these days I’m often cooking while simultaneously folding laundry and answering emails so mise en place goes out the window along with just about anything else that isn’t life-threatening.

This is what happened when I went to make my Chinese chicken salad. I searched everywhere but there was no chilli oil.

I could have made my own but that takes time and time was another thing I didn’t have in stock.

Instead I reached for the Vietnamese chilli garlic sauce that I did have on hand. You can find different brands of chilli garlic sauce at the supermarket but the one I use comes from Chinatown and has a rooster on it. While I was poaching the chicken for the salad I did a quick search on the internet.

Turns out it’s made by a company called Huy Fong Foods in the US. The company was started by David Tran, a refugee from Vietnam who left by boat in 1979.

The name of the boat was Huey Fong which means “gathering prosperity”. When he started his hot sauce business in 1980 he decided to call it Huy Fong and adopted the rooster as his logo since he was born in the Chinese zodiac Year of the Rooster.

Since then, the business has grown and enjoys a loyal following, myself included. So technically, this recipe should be Vietnamese Chicken Salad – I’ll leave it as it is, but send David Tran my thanks for bailing me out.

How to make a Chinese chicken salad

Leafy greens, crunchy almonds and chicken combine deliciously with an Asian-inspired dressing (Julia Platt Leonard)

Chinese chicken salad 

Serves 2-3

If you’ve got leftover chicken from a roast, you’re all set. If not, you can poach a chicken breast. 

½ Chinese cabbage, about 300g
20g coriander, with roots if possible
2 spring onions
200g chicken (1 large chicken breast)

Dressing

1 tbsp chilli garlic sauce
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tsp caster sugar
1 lime

Garnish

Cucumber
Sesame seeds
Chopped almonds

If you’re using leftover cooked chicken, simply shred it into bite size pieces and keep refrigerated until ready to use. If you’re poaching a chicken breast, place the breast in a pan, cover with water, add a generous sprinkling of salt and place the lid on. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat and gently poach until the chicken is just cooked. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down in the poaching liquid then shred the meat and refrigerate while you prepare the salad. 

To make the salad, remove the core from the cabbage, slice thinly and place in a salad bowl. Roughly chop the coriander and add to the mix. Thinly slice the spring onions and toss into the salad.

To make the dressing, combine the chilli garlic sauce, oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, and caster sugar. Slice the lime in half and add the juice from one of the halves. Cut the remaining half into wedges to serve with the salad.

When you’re ready to serve, add the chicken to the greens and top with the dressing. Combine and place into serving bowls. Top with your choice of garnishes and a wedge of lime. 

@juliapleonard

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