Check out the chicken salad

Chinese style chicken salad. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • DIY. Do you know how to make a Chinese style chicken salad? Writes A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.

For as far back as I care to remember, when I was growing up in America during the 60’s, chicken salad was always a good old traditional dish which was a must have item for any party or summer outdoor meal such as picnics.

One of the most important things to remember about chicken salad, is that it must taste of chicken, which has to be the dominant taste while all the other ingredients are added to enhance the flavour, as well as adding texture. 

Another important thing to bear in mind when you are preparing chicken salad, always keep the proportions of at least twice as much chicken as the total of your other ingredients. 

Last but not least, when you are using mayonnaise, be careful to refrigerate your salad especially if you make it in advance.

Many people have attributed what we know today as ‘Chinese Chicken Salad’ to chef Wolfgang Puck, an Austrian chef renowned for doing fusion cooking in America, who supposedly served a version of it at his Los Angeles restaurants in the 1980s.

However, some food historians claim Chinese Chicken Salad goes back further than that to the 1960s, also in Los Angeles but created at Madame Wu’s restaurant. The truth shall never be known but regardless your guests will be enthralled with this Chinese rendition and I highly recommend keeping this item in your repertoire.

This Chinese style chicken salad is a masterpiece of subtle flavours and contrasts in texture.
1.Put the chicken portions into a large pan and cover with water. Add 15ml/1 tbsp of the soy sauce, the Chinese five spice powder, the lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer for about half an hour or less.
2.In the meantime, place the cucumber matchsticks in a colander and sprinkle with the salt and cover with a plate plus a weight that you will put on top. Leave to drain for a good 30 minutes and set the colander to catch the drips.
3.Remove the poached chicken with a draining spoon and leave until it has sufficiently cooled to be able to handle. Remove and discard the skin unless you are using skinned and deboned breast of chicken. Bang the chicken lightly with a rolling pin in order to loosen the fibers and slice into thin strips and set aside.
4.Heat the sunflower oil along with the sesame in a preheated wok or a large frying pan. Add the sesame seeds and fry for 30 seconds and then stir in the remaining soy sauce and the rice wine or dry sherry. 
5.Add the carrots and stir fry for a couple of minutes until they become tender and remove from the heat and reserve for later use.
6.Rinse the cucumber well and pat dry with kitchen towels and place in a bowl. Add the spring onions, beansprouts, cooked carrots, pan juices and shredded chicken and mix together. Transfer to a shallow dish and cover and chill for at least an hour, turning the mixture in the juices once or twice.
7.To make the sauce, cream the peanut butter with the lemon juice, sesame oil and chili powder adding a little drinking water (as opposed to tap water) to form a paste and then stir in the spring onions. Arrange the chicken mixture on a serving dish and serve with the peanut sauce.  

Serves 4
4 boneless chicken breasts about 200g each
60 ml/ 4 tbsp dark soy sauce. If you only have light soy sauce, then use what you have.
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tsp lemon juice 
1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks 
50ml /3 tbsp sunflower oil
30ml/2 tbsp sesame oil
15ml/1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
30ml/2tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks 
10 shredded spring onions
75g/3oz bean sprouts 
For the sauce
60ml/4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
10ml/2 tbsp lemon juice
10ml/ 2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili powder or according to taste 
2 spring onions, finely chopped