Saturday, February 11, 2012

Asian Chicken Salad

I have been on a huge Asian cooking kick lately.  It all started when my husband and his friends discovered Mahnin Asian Restaurant on Calhoun--a little hole-in-the-wall Thai/Burmese place featuring all sorts of delicious and authentic (and cheap!) dishes.  Right across the street is an Asian market called, oddly enough, Asian Market.  (It's right on the corner of Calhoun and Pontiac, across from Finders Keepers.)  Stepping inside that place is like entering another world.  You can buy anything from fresh Thai basil and lemongrass to shrimp the size of lobsters.  It takes five minutes to pick one bottle of fish sauce out of the zillion they carry.  You have to step around fifty-pound bags of rice and piles of cooking equipment and Asian candy to get anywhere.  The air is full of unusual incense.  English is definitely not the most prevalent language.

I was hooked.  It's probably the biggest Asian market in that area (there are at least six or seven others within a mile down Calhoun), with a huge selection and very reasonable prices (at least half what you would pay at Meijer or Kroger).  If you're at all interested in Asian cooking, or even if you need to restock your soy sauce supply, I would definitely recommend checking it out.  And then stop into Mahnin for a glorious plate of Pad Thai or Pad Kra Pao (my husband's favorite).

So far most of the Asian recipes I've been trying at home have called for lots of unusual ingredients--items that you could never find at the co-op.  This salad is less authentic, but it still has a fresh, Asian-inspired flavor, and you can customize it to fit whatever you have on hand.  You can certainly substitute a ready-made Asian vinaigrette for the dressing, but I had all the ingredients on hand to make this one and I liked the end result.  I think the most essential ingredient in the dressing is sesame oil; it's $1.99 for a 7 oz. bottle at the Asian markets (more like $6 at Kroger).

I haven't included amounts for any of the salad ingredients--just prepare as much as you need.  I served everything in separate dishes, so everyone could build their own salad as desired.

Asian Chicken Salad
Time:  15-30 minutes

Vinaigrette (makes about 1/2 cup)
3 T. unseasoned rice or wine vinegar
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. honey (brown sugar would also work)
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. fresh grated ginger (optional)

Thoroughly whisk together all ingredients.

Romaine lettuce or spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
Cooked chicken, cooled and cut into strips (I used the Brakebush grilled chicken breasts; breaded chicken tenders might be good too)
Canned mandarin orange slices, drained
Carrots, grated or cut into matchsticks
Green onions, thinly sliced
Bean sprouts, rinsed well (optional--I had some on hand I needed to use up)
Chow mein noodles

Be creative!  Other ingredient options could include thinly sliced red onion, canned water chestnuts, shredded napa cabbage (in place of lettuce/spinach), sliced almonds, halved cherry tomatoes, or sliced mushrooms.

No comments: