Though I am a California girl, I grew up in a small rural town, not on the trendy West Coast of California, therefore, I was not exposed early to fine or fashionable foods. It was pretty much down home cooking at our house. It is interesting how the preparation of food has changed over the years. In our home meat was fried or roasted for hours, fresh vegetables were boiled beyond recognition, and fresh berries were coated and soaked in sugar. Really, I thought all asparagus was pale green and slimmy, that berries came in a sugary sauce, and all salads were coated in some enormous amount of mayonnaise. So, when in the late 1960’s or, in my hometown, the early 1970’s (it takes a while for things to travel 150-200 miles), Chinese Chicken Salad hit the scene and it was a revolution. My mom must have been so much cooler than I realized, because, looking back, she was one of the first I knew to make a great Chinese Chicken Salad. Here is my mom’s version of Chinese Chicken Salad.
Mom’s Chinese Chicken Salad
3 chicken breasts (with bone and skin) and yes, girls, chicken originally came with bones and skin. The reason for using skin on and bone in chicken, is when boiling , it tends to add flavor (and fat, but, we don’t need to talk about that). Place in a large saucepan and cover with tap water, a generous amount of salt (salt is good), and bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 1 hour or more (more is better because you have to cook it to death) until the chicken is tender. Drain, cool, remove skin and bone, and set aside.
One head of Iceberg Lettuce (that is the round, pale, lettuce, which use to be the only one available). Shred the lettuce, do not tear.
1 bunch of green onion coarsely sliced
4 ounces of rice sticks lightly fried in hot oil until they swell and then drain on a paper towel.
1/4 cup of toasted slivered almonds (toast until lighly browned on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven)
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds (toast same as almonds)
1/2 cup Wesson corn oil (Yep, good ole corn oil)
4 tablespoons white vinegar (no fancy vinegar in our cupboard)
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon salt (definetly not sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
When chicken is cool enought to touch, using your fingers and a fork, shred the chicken (do not dice or slice). In a large tupperware bowl, (tupperware was a fashion statement) place shredded lettuce, sliced green onions, almonds, sesame seeds, dressing, and toss well. Serve immediately, or even better let sit in the ice box ( I know, I called it an ice box, it really was a refrigerator, but, my parents still called it an ice box) let it get soggy and eat it for days on end. Yummy, it really was. Serves about 6-8.
As all things do, even Chinese Chicken Salad progressed. After all, once you have left your home town, lived a little, eaten at Applebee’s, or P.F. Chang’s, even Mom’s cooking needs an update. And so, my daughter’s have taken the wooden spoon and carried on their grandmother’s tradition. They are cooking with the times and so, here is daughter, Sarah’s, Chinese Chicken Salad. This would make grandma proud.
Chinese Chicken Salad for the 21st Century
Marinate 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast in a glass dish covered with water, a generous amount of garlic salt, and 4 tablespoons of Girards Chinese Chicken Salad Dresssing for 4-6 hours.
Remove from marinate and grill on an outdoor gas grill or indoors on a grill pan for about 10-15 minutes until just done. Remove from heat and chill.
In a large glass salad bowl, arrange two bags of prewashed torn romaine lettuce, chilled sliced chicken, packaged won ton strips, one small package of slivered almonds, and sliced green onions. Right before serving, toss with Girards Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing. Serve plated with a croissaint or a warm sourdough roll. Delish! Serves 4-6.
About the Author
Debbie Williams is the author of Recipes that Remember, a recipe blog dedicated to her mother who passed away from Alzheimer's disease in 2010. Learn more »