I have been enjoying my Mom's version of Chinese Chicken Salad for many years -- and it is a favorite she is known for by family and friends. Though I have had versions with add-ins (bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, red bell pepper strips, shredded carrot, chopped mint, romaine and/or iceberg lettuces, even melon chunks), this is her preferred combination -- I think it is her addition of the small pieces of candied ginger that make it unusual!
The wonton strips are pretty straightforward to fry to golden brown in hot oil. The rice sticks (maifun noodles) take a bit of mastering. Pull away a section from the package to separate the noodles somewhat and test a noodle in the oil to make sure it is hot -- the noodle will puff immediately (with no color, unlike the wonton!). I actually use the same hot oil in a wok for both noodles -- frying the maifun noodles first; when puffed in mere seconds, I remove them to paper towels to drain, using a Chinese spider in one hand and tongs in the other.
The amount of noodles fried for the salad is personal preference -- I often fry them earlier in the day -- along with shredding the meat from the rotisserie chicken -- these are the most time-consuming. When ready to serve, I place in my very large salad bowl all ingredients except the two types of noodles and toss with my salad dressing before adding in a handful of each of the fried wonton and rick stick varieties. Then I pass the rest in a bowl for those who wish additional -- the same thing holds true with the dressing (less is more -- just enough to coat the lettuce leaves), but I am happy to serve a cruet full of the Asian dressing for those who prefer to add more to their individual salad. The salad serves 6-8 entree sized portions (depending on how hungry your diners are -- beware...it is addictive!).
Chinese Chicken Salad
1 whole rotisserie chicken, meat removed; white and dark meat, shredded
1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded (Napa can be substituted)
4 c. mesclun greens
2 heads of Little Gem lettuce, broken into bite-size pieces
8 oz. enoki mushrooms, brushed clean and separated
2 8-ounce cans sliced water chestnuts - chiffonade style
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped in 1/4" slices
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts*
2 T. black sesame seeds
1 15-oz. can mandarin oranges**
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
4 oz. crystallized (candied) ginger, sliced chiffonade style
2 oz. maifun rice noodles, fried in hot peanut oil until puffed
10-12 won ton wrappers, cut into 1/2" strips, fried in same oil until golden brown
*Toasted sliced almonds can be substituted; sometime I rough chop a cup of mixed dry roasted nuts instead!
**In season, fresh Satsuma tangerine sections are used in place of the canned Mandarin style ones
My mother doesn't follow a recipe nor measure ingredients for this salad but prefers to "eyeball" so these proportions are rough estimates and amounts are a matter of personal taste (ie more chopped scallions or less!).
1 c. canola oil
2 T. sesame seed oil
1/3 c. honey
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
3 T. mayonnaise (optional)*
1 t. salt
1/4 freshly ground pepper
3/4 t. mustard powder
3/4 t. ginger powder
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Mix together all ingredients with whisk to emulsify and refrigerate until ready to use. Because some like a creamier version of this vinaigrette, we often make the dressing and separate off half to add the mayonnaise to (and whisk to blend well). The recipe can be doubled to serve generously, or for a later use.