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.”
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.
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.
(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.