Chinese Chicken Salad – Real American Food

chinese chicken salad
My family, all five of us, are Korean. However, you might never guess that based on the fiercely possessive national pride my Dad has for China. If you ask my Dad where something comes from, where it originates, the history of anything, I am willing to bet my inheritance that he will say “China.” Test him with something. He will find a way to trace its roots back to China. Just like “kimono.”

Firecrackers? China

Ice cream? China.

Spaghetti? “It is a common minconception that spaghetti comes from Italy, when in fact, it was Marco Polo’s travels through China…” Dad will be smiling, as he gets to play, yet again, the Great Enlightener.

With the exception of potatoes, which my Dad has conceded to Peru, everything comes from China.

chinese chicken salad
where does chinese chicken salad come from?

But one of these days, I am going to ask my Dad about Chinese Chicken Salad. I bet he will have to think about that one. Dad is going to put down his chopsticks, lean back in his Captain’s chair with his fingers interlaced behind his head and think hard because there is no way in hell he will be able to trace Chinese Chicken Salad back to China. Not even Asia. I bet Chinese Chicken Salad doesn’t even come from anywhere near the northern hemisphere.

You see, Chinese Chicken Salad is about the most American food there is. Like many foods, the true origin of Chinese Chicken Salad is debatable, but it is commonly attributed to Wolfgang Puck, who created it somewhere within his Asian fusion empire. Imagine that. An Austrian chef who does Asian Fusion in America invents Chinese Chicken Salad. How confusing. And people wonder about my identity crisis.

However, regardless of the uncertainty of it origins and the fact that its being overpriced, overdone, and just plain oh-ver represents why I hate Asian fusion, I still like a good Chinese Chicken Salad. I think I’ve tried my fair share of them out there in La La Land, and each one is different, from the type of greens used as a base to the flavors in the dressing, from the preparation of the chicken to “garnishes.” All of the salads are good, but nothing beats making it at home exactly the way *I* want it, pulling the best elements from all the other salads out there.
chinese chicken salad
(Please, if you have a recommendation for a good Chinese Chicken Salad in a restaurant, let me know! But not if it’s called “Oriental Chicken Salad.” I don’t eat “Oriental” food.)

Chinese Chicken Salad, that is more “Asian” than it is “Chinese”
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 clove of finely minced garlic, ½ tsp grated fresh ginger, and as generous a squeeze of sriracha (“hot cock” sauce) as your tastebuds can handle.

Chop half a head of Iceberg lettuce into shreds, wash, and dry. I would have added shredded Napa cabbage, but I was too lazy to go to the market. Toss lettuce with about half the dressing.

In a separate bowl, toss 2 c. shredded cooked chicken (I poached skinless chicken breasts), a handful each of: sugar snap peas that have been cooked tender-crisp, shredded carrots, and julienned bell pepper (I used red). Toss with remaining dressing, then place on individual servings of dressed lettuce.

Add cooked, shelled edamame, slivered scallions, and toasted sesame seeds on top.

** a year ago today, i brought vanilla ginger cake-tails to a blog party and GQ told me to eat 20 burgers **

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 homewitch September 13, 2006 at 11:11 am

Does your dad use Windex as a cure-all, too? :)

I think there are a lot of ethnically named dishes that are, in essence, American. Pizza, for instance, the way we commonly find it here. “Mexican” food, ditto. Probably tons of others I don’t even realize.

What I always wonder is this: What, in other countries, passes for or is attributed as being “authentic American cuisine?” The only things I ever come up with are Southern American dishes (country fried steak & chicken, buttermilk biscuits, etc.) What scares me is that if you look through a lot of recipe sites, there is an overabundance of casseroles. I sure hope that isn’t all we’re known for…

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2 homewitch September 13, 2006 at 11:11 am

Does your dad use Windex as a cure-all, too? :)

I think there are a lot of ethnically named dishes that are, in essence, American. Pizza, for instance, the way we commonly find it here. “Mexican” food, ditto. Probably tons of others I don’t even realize.

What I always wonder is this: What, in other countries, passes for or is attributed as being “authentic American cuisine?” The only things I ever come up with are Southern American dishes (country fried steak & chicken, buttermilk biscuits, etc.) What scares me is that if you look through a lot of recipe sites, there is an overabundance of casseroles. I sure hope that isn’t all we’re known for…

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3 sarah September 13, 2006 at 3:01 pm

homewitch: no, my dad doesn’t. haha! and yes, i wonder about “american” food all the time. i mean, there’s even a category called “american” on every restaurant review site – and it usually refers to anything that isn’t one of the other cuisines. now we have “new american” which just confuses me even more :)

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4 dorkie September 13, 2006 at 8:47 pm

“With the exception of potatoes, which my Dad has conceded to Peru, everything comes from China.”

heheh… everything still does. don’t you know? *wink* :-P

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5 Miss Tenacity September 14, 2006 at 4:30 am

Yep – pizza is Chinese, definitely. Don’t forget that tomatoes, however, are North American. Silly Italians wouldn’t touch them (or potatoes) for a long time, thinking they were poisonous.

The Chinese Chicken Salad thing made me remember that my brother’s favorite is from Joan’s on Third. And *that* made me remember that I love their little tiny chocolate bouchons…. mmmmm.

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6 djjewelz September 14, 2006 at 5:25 am

Miss Sarah, I have another list idea for you. You should put together a list of all the recipes you have posted online so that I don’t have to go through 5 months of posts to find some recipes. It was fun rereading some of the old posts though!

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7 *janet* September 14, 2006 at 10:48 pm

Feast from the East is my favorite CCS. Something about that damn dressing – it’s like crack! How else can you explain that they sell it at COSTCO???

I saw Social Hollywood on your to-dine list – my boyfriend and I just went there for the Kobe Beef Sliders. He wrote a post about it if you want to check it out. http://www.consumermachine.com

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8 Jim Bursch September 15, 2006 at 12:39 am

I am blessed to live right around the corner from Feast From The East, and their CCS is a regular must-have.

I think perhaps because they move so much salad, the ingredients are always fresh. Even the chicken seems better than the average white meat.

Is there Westwood Blvd. location their only location?

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9 KT September 15, 2006 at 4:47 am

Do people still say “oriental?”

tres gauche!

I’m not a big chinese chicken salad person (although I love the crunchy things) but I think that California Chicken Cafe had a pretty good one.

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10 Anonymous September 15, 2006 at 5:51 pm

i make a salad dressing out of yoshida sauce from costco. It’s so good! 2.5 parts yoshida, 1.5 parts white balsamic vinegar from trader joes (more if you like it more vinegary), .5 parts sesame oil, crushed garlic, ground red pepper, ground sesame. you can make a quick bibim nengmyun sauce from this too, just add more red pepper, vinegar, and garlic. hanna.

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11 Anonymous September 15, 2006 at 5:51 pm

i make a salad dressing out of yoshida sauce from costco. It’s so good! 2.5 parts yoshida, 1.5 parts white balsamic vinegar from trader joes (more if you like it more vinegary), .5 parts sesame oil, crushed garlic, ground red pepper, ground sesame. you can make a quick bibim nengmyun sauce from this too, just add more red pepper, vinegar, and garlic. hanna.

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12 JW September 15, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Whoo-hoo! Go China! Your Dad sounds very enlightened. :)

That said, Chinese Chicken Salad is a personal affront to Chinese cuisine. Resist the urge at all costs!

JW

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13 JW September 15, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Whoo-hoo! Go China! Your Dad sounds very enlightened. :)

That said, Chinese Chicken Salad is a personal affront to Chinese cuisine. Resist the urge at all costs!

JW

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14 onetomato September 15, 2006 at 8:53 pm

if you fry your own shredded wonton skin and add toasted almonds instead of sesame seeds, it’s to die for.

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15 hermz October 7, 2006 at 5:33 pm

Your version of CCS sounds good.

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16 Anonymous February 23, 2008 at 6:00 am

Inventor of Chinese Chicken Salad: Cecelia Chiang, owner of The Mandarin restaurants in San Francisco and Beverly Hills (her son is a founder of PF Chang’s) and mother of postwar high end Chinese cuisine on the West Coast. She had lots of leftover iceberg lettuce from minced spicy chicken wrapped in lettuce, so she invented the Mandarin Chicken Salad, which instantly became a cult hit and top seller in The Mandarin Beverly Hills in the 1970s. She describes her invention in her recent cookbook-memoir SEVENTH DAUGHTER.

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17 K August 21, 2008 at 6:50 pm

I am Korean adopted with a Chinese Mom. She and I both get creeped out by food labeled as “oriental” as well!!! Like who would really want to eat Oriental style ramen…who knows what they use as their special seasoning…?

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18 Elizeth July 6, 2010 at 4:22 am

Hai.. These look good.Great presentation and your Photography is also good

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