Chinese Chicken Salad
April 15, 1999
From "Every Grain of Rice: A Taste of Our Chinese Childhood in America" by Ellen Blonder and Annabel Low (Clarkson Potter/Publishers)
Originally, the shredded chicken for this salad was deep-fried until it was slightly crispy. In this less-rich version, boneless chicken breasts are baked and shredded. The salad was always make with iceberg lettuce, although romaine may be used instead. The pungent flavors of cilantro and oyster sauce predominate in this salad. Fried wonton wrappers provide contrast to the other textures. A cup of roasted salted cashews may be used instead of wonton wrappers if you prefer to avoid frying altogether.
6 to 8 servings
Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub the chicken with the salt and Chinese five-spice powder. Place the chicken on a rack in a baking pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until cooked through. Let cool 10 minutes. Using 2 forks, shred the meat. Set aside.
Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds to the dry skillet and toast them until they are lightly browned, shaking the pan gently, about 2 minutes. Remove the sesame seeds immediately to cool. (Leaving them in the hot skillet may cause them to burn.)
Combine the green onion, lettuce and cilantro in a large serving bowl, cover and refrigerate.
In a small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut oil and white pepper and mix well. Line a cookie sheet with several layers of paper towels and set aside.
Pour the oil for deep-frying into a wide, deep skillet. Clip on a candy thermometer and heat the oil to 365°F.
While the oil is heating, place the stack of wonton wrappers on a cutting board. With a sharp knife or cleaver, cut through all the layers into 1/4-inch strips. Separate the layers with your fingers, making sure that the strips are not sticking together.
Divide the strips into 4 batches. Carefully put the first batch into the oil and separate with strips with a long-handled wooden spoon or long chopsticks. The strips should sizzle and twist immediately; they will be done in about 20 to 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon or wire mesh strainer and drain on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining batches.
Add the shredded chicken to the lettuce mixture, then add the dressing and toss. Taste and add more oyster sauce, hoisin sauce or sesame oil, if necessary. Toss in the wonton strips and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately. (The wonton strips will not remain crisp for long in the dressing. You may prepare the ingredients separately up to 1 hour ahead of time, but do not assemble them until the last minute.)
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