Ginger Soy Chicken Salad

One of my favorite lunches or dinners, especially when the weather starts to warm up is a big, crisp salad. If the salad contains protein, like the poached chicken breast in this recipe, I consider it a perfect meal. I could probably eat this salad two or three times a week (okay, truthfully, I have) and will often make a double batch of dressing to keep in the fridge and have on-hand during the week. I’ve also prepared all the of the vegetables, chopped everything and kept it, undressed, in the fridge for a few days. Just dress the vegetables when I was ready to eat.

A few words on substitutions. This recipe includes instructions for poaching boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s a great way to keep it moist. But if you have leftover roasted chicken or want to grab a rotisserie chicken from your butcher/grocery store, use it! Just pull the chicken off the bone, discard the skin and bones and shred the chicken.

Vegetables — I love this crisp, crunchy vegetables mix, but you can add or subtract items depending on your taste. Add thinly sliced bell peppers, red onion, jicama, purple cabbage or anything else you like. I like to use Napa cabbage because it stays crisp after chopping in the fridge for a couple of days, but I’ve also made this with romaine lettuce, or a mixture of romaine and Napa. Use what you like, but the romaine will start to deteriorate quickly once chopped, so plan to eat it the same day you prep it. Whatever you use, make sure you wash and dry all of the vegetables really well.

Mandarins. Half of the time I make this, I’ll use fresh orange segments, half the time canned mandarins. Use whichever you prefer — they’re both good!

I usually use almonds in this salad, but you can use cashews, peanuts, or sesame seeds. Or use a combination.

Finally, the wonton strips. You can use packaged wonton strips or crispy chow mein noodles if they’re available to you. If not, you can take wonton wrappers, cut them into strips and fry them in vegetable oil until crispy. Or they can be left out altogether.

This recipe will feed 4-6 people as a main course.

Chicken Ingredients

  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 680 grams / 1 1/2 lbs.)
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 4 slices of ginger, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • cold water

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. ginger, finely grated
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 5 Tbsp. rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup oil (canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed or your favorite)

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 medium head of Napa cabbage, washed and dried well and thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded (I use a ‘peeler’ that cuts it into julienne, but use a box grater if you don’t have one)
  • 1 English cucumber, remove half the peel with a peeler, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds with a teaspoon and thinly slice into half-moons
  • 227 grams / 8 oz. sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups sliced)
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1-2 cans of mandarin oranges, drained well (my family likes these, so I use two cans!)
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • crispy wonton or chow mein noodles

Instructions

For the chicken: Place the chicken breast in a single layer in the bottom of a heavy pot. Add the green onion, garlic, ginger and soy sauce, then add enough cold water to cover the chicken by an inch. (see picture below).

Place pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. As soon as it comes to a simmer, place a lid on the pot and reduce the temperature to low so that the chicken simmers very gently. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and let the chicken sit in the hot liquid for another 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (no pink left in the centre) and has reached 75ºC / 165ºF. If the chicken breasts are small, check them earlier and if they’ve very large, they may need a little more time. Remove the breasts and transfer to a plate or cutting board. I like to chill the chicken and then slice it for the salad, but you can serve the chicken warm or cold.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the dressing and the rest of the salad ingredients.

For the dressing, add all of he ingredients to a bowl or measuring cup and whisk together until combined. If you’re not eating the salad right away, refrigerate the dressing.

For the salad, combine the cabbage, carrots, cucumber, sugar-snap peas, green onions, mandarins and sliced or shredded chicken in a large salad bowl. Mix everything together. You can either cover with plastic wrap and chill until you’re ready to serve or dress and serve immediately.

To dress the salad, pour approximately half of the dressing into the salad and use tongs to mix well. You want everything in the salad to be lightly coated in dressing, but not swimming in it. If you need to add more dressing, add it slowly and continue to mix until it’s perfectly dressed. Sprinkle toasted almonds and wonton strips on top (if you’re using them) and serve!

You can also dress enough salad for one or two (or three, etc.. ) people, and leave the remaining salad undressed in the fridge for a day or two. This was one of my favorite salads to take to work when I was working in an office. Just make sure you package the dressing and nuts/wontons in small, separate containers so they, and the salad, don’t get soggy before you’re ready to eat.

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