Crunchy, colorful vegetables team with shredded chicken and a creamy sesame ginger vinaigrette in this Chinese Chicken Salad. It makes a terrific main course meal for lunch or dinner, inspired by our recent trip to fabulous Charleston, South Carolina.
Chinese Chicken Salad
We'd been roaming around Charleston with our cameras all morning, happily lost in shooting old cobblestone streets, beautiful gardens, historic homes, and the city's famous ironwork. It's easy to lose track of time when you're completely absorbed, until your stomach reminds you that you've been ignoring it.
With so many terrific restaurants and cafes in Charleston, it's hard to choose where to eat. Several friends suggested we have lunch at Cru Cafe. It was worth the wait.
Cru Cafe, Charleston, SC
Serving up gourmet Lowcountry comfort food, Cru Cafe is off the beaten path in a classic, 18th century Charleston home with a lovely porch with a few tables where you can eat outside. And that we did, giving our tired feet a rest and our growling stomachs what they needed.
We both ordered the Chinese Chicken Salad and it really hit the spot. Light and crunchy with crisp greens, bell peppers, carrots, tender chicken, and a ginger vinaigrette. Knowing I would be wanting this at home, I snapped a picture and created my own recipe.
About Napa Cabbage
If you are not familiar with napa cabbage, it's a type of Chinese cabbage. The head is oval in shape with crinkly leaves and a large center white rib. Napa cabbage is part of the nutritious cruciferous family of veggies, including kale, broccoli, broccolini, chards, cauliflower, bok choy, regular cabbage, Brussels sprouts, arugula, radishes, and daikon. Cru Cafe's salad had daikon radish in the salad but since I couldn't find any, I used regular radishes instead.
What Else to do With Napa Cabbage
- Use it in tacos instead of lettuce or standard green cabbage
- Upgrade your steakhouse-style iceberg wedge with napa cabbage
- Add it to a stir-fry
- Use it in a Caesar salad in stead of Romaine (which I like to do)
- Grill it
- Add thinly sliced ribbons to chicken soup
The Dressing: Ginger Vinaigrette
Great salads need great dressing, right? Absolutely. This one is a creamy ginger dressing that's tasty and versatile. If you like this one, here's another creamy dressing, my Creamy Tahini Salad Dressing or this Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette
For better roasting, let chicken sit out of the fridge for about 45 minutes, then roast. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the bones and skin. You will get approximately 10 ounces of chicken off a single 1 pound bone-in chicken breast, so do 2 breasts to serve four. You need 16 ounces of cooked chicken, so you'll have a little extra.
If you prefer boneless chicken breasts, poach approximately 1 ¼ pounds and slice for the salad. For how to poach chicken breasts use this recipe.
Charleston is one fantastic, historic American city you must visit. We have so many great photos from the trip. One thing is for sure, we must go back. Did I mention the Charleston classic, She Crab Soup? oh yum...maybe a future recipe.
The sesame oil in the dressing should be safe and generally low risk. For the vinegar, try organic white vinegar if vinegar sensitive. For the creamy consistency, try tahini if you are sensitive to cashews (which are high in histamine). Tahini is sesame seed butter. Although there is a small amount of lime juice in the dressing, I suggest you skip it as lime is highly reactive and a histamine liberator. Everything in the salad should be safe. Do what works safely for you and the level of reactivity you are at. On ginger, it is generally well tolerated but do what is best for you and skip if needed.
Use coconut aminos and swap date paste for the honey as no honey is allowed.
Chinese Chicken Salad
Creamy Ginger Vinaigrette (makes ⅔ cup)
- ¼ cup sesame oil toasted or plain
- 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar, white vinegar or Champagne vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoons ginger puree in a jar
- 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoon creamy cashew butter or tahini, peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ½ lime, juiced
- 1-2 heads Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage
- 2 large carrots scrubbed
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 large green bell pepper
- 6-8 radishes
- 2 scallions or green onions
- 3-3 ½ cups cooked shredded chicken 1 pound
- ¼ red onion
Make the Dressing (Makes ⅔ cup)
- For a creamy dressing, place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, about 20 seconds. For a thinner vinaigrette, place all ingredients in a jar and shake well.
Prep the Salad
- Slice cabbage crosswise into thin ribbons, starting at the top of the leaf. When you get down to mostly white core, discard the rest. Chop carrots and bell peppers into long thin pieces (julienne). For radishes, either slice thinly or quarter. For red onion, slice thin. For scallions, slice thin on the diagonal.
Assemble the Salad
- You can assemble the salad two ways. One - Add all veggies to a large bowl and toss together, add chicken with 6 tablespoons of dressing and toss again, divide between for plates and serve. Second, you can toss the veggies with a little dressing and divide between four plates, then add the chicken on top. Serve extra dressing on the side.