CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD
- 2 whole chicken breasts NOTE: That’s 4 half-breast pieces, as plump as possible for best texture, with skin on for poaching, boned or not.
- 1 cup, chicken broth (optional)
- 1 or 2 whole scallions (green onions) - root end and dried tips trimmed off
- 1 or 2 slices, fresh ginger root
- 1 small head, iceberg lettuce
- vegetable oil for cooking crispy noodles
- about 2 ounces, maifun noodles (“rice sticks”) [see Ingredients Note below]
- 2 tablespoons, shredded red preserved ginger [see Ingredients Note below]
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1 teaspoon, sugar
- 4 teaspoons, soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons, rice vinegar (or seasoned rice vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon, dark sesame oil
- 4 teaspoon, sesame seeds - toasted
Place chicken breasts in a wide pan (which has a lid), and add chicken broth (if using), scallion(s) and ginger slice(s) along with enough water to completely cover the chicken by about 1-inch. Over medium heat, without covering the pan, bring the liquid in the pan just to the simmer. With a large spoon, move the chicken breasts around a bit to be sure each piece is completely surrounded by liquid. When the liquid just begins to boil, cover the pan, and immediately turn off the heat. Allow to stand for 45 minutes. Remove chicken from liquid (broth may be strained and frozen for future use) and remove and discard the skin (and bones, if any) from the chicken breasts), and discard the scallions and ginger. Using your hands, gently shred the chicken for the salad. Set aside.
Shred the iceberg lettuce. Set aside.
Drain (blotting or gently squeezing) the red preserved ginger. Set aside.
In a wok or wide, deep pot, bring an inch or so of vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Break the maifun noodles into small portions, and (with a “spider” or slotted spoon) gently lower a single handful into the hot oil. The noodles will puff up (to about 10 times their original volume) in about 5 seconds. Turn the noodles once to cook the other side, then remove the puffed noodles from the hot oil and drain them on paper towels. The noodles will remain white - no need to try to cook them until they color! Repeat, if more batches are needed, being careful after each batch to remove any tiny pieces left behind in the oil, so that they don’t burn. [Noodles may be fried several hours in advance, and will keep, if drained thoroughly, uncovered - or covered lightly with a paper towel - in a dry place.]
Combine the ingredients for the dressing, and whisk thoroughly, or shake in a lidded jar to combine.
Add the shredded chicken to the dressing. Toss to mix. Add the lettuce and red preserved ginger to the dressing and chicken. Toss again to mix. Serve on individual plates, with the crispy maifun noodles heaped on top of each serving.
INGREDIENTS NOTE: Maifun noodles are the lightest, crispiest threads of rice noodles, and my personal preference for this salad. I use Dynasty brand - once I bought another kind, and they were downright chewy, so I’ve never switched brands again, although I’m sure there are many other good ones.
Some people use vermicelli noodles, or cellophane noodles, bean threads (made from mung beans - sold in cellophane packages) or even fried won-ton skins (sliced before frying). Whatever “floats your boat”….
Red Preserved Ginger is an essential flavor ingredient to this salad, but is no longer hard to find. It’s sold in the “Asian Foods” refrigerated section of the supermarkets, in glass jars - you can see the deep fuchsia color of the ginger through the jar. Of course, it is also available in Chinese markets.