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. We had to wait awhile, but 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
Chicken Options and How to Roast Chicken Breasts
For the chicken, use store rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken from roasting a whole one yourself (which I do each Sunday). You can also use roast bone-in chicken breasts. Here’s a quick way to make them.
Preheat an oven to 375° F, line a small rimmed backing sheet with foil, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast until chicken reaches 160°-165°F. It will take about 35-40 minutes depending on your oven and how cold the chicken is coming out of the fridge.
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.
Charleston is one fantastic, historic American city you must visit. We have so many great photos from the trip I might have to do just a Charleston post with travel tips, where to eat and stay. One thing is for sure, we must go back. Did I mention the Charleston classic, She Crab Soup? oh yum…maybe a future recipe.
Chinese Chicken Salad
Crunchy napa cabbage, lots of colorful veggies, tender chicken, plus a creamy, light ginger vinaigrette. Inspired by our trip to Charleston, SC and Cafe Cru. This is a great make ahead recipe. Roast chicken, chop your veggies and make the dressing a few days ahead. You will have a nice lunch or dinner ready in about 5 minutes during the week.
Creamy Ginger Vinaigrette (makes 2/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup sesame oil not toasted
- 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar or champagne vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger puree
- 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon creamy cashew butter or tahini, peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 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 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken 1 pound
- 1/4 red onion
Make the Dressing (Makes 2/3 cup)
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, about 20 seconds.
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.
If you don't have any leftover chicken, roast a couple of bone-in chicken breasts. See notes in the post. Its super easy.