Asian Chicken Salad
If I were a betting person, I would put money on this recipe appearing in the Hahn household during the mid 90s. But I’m not, so thankfully I won’t loose any money if / when my brothers prove me wrong.
My main memories of making this dish were when we needed a quick supper; either before or after our mom took me to dance class. Yes, there was a lot of that (thanks again for all that driving, Mom!) and it was always in the evenings. So as the years went on and my activity of choice cut into the family dinner experience, we tried new recipes. While our mom somehow still managed plenty of delicious home cooked meals, the-quicker-the-better, or like this one, assemble-when-hungry, became common themes.
I also don’t remember having one of the key ingredients, crispy chow mien noodles, earlier than that mid 90s era. I consider the noodles a standard pantry item these days, but back then I remember thinking they were so special, so new, so exotic!
And yes, I’m aware this confirms my Midwesterness to be a full 100%.
If I could think of a classic Midwestern-ism I’d include it here, but I’m drawing a blank. Maybe having lived on the West Coast for the past :::counts on fingers::: 15 years has finally started rubbing off on my psyche. Who the heck knows?
Oh but wait, I just used ‘heck’ in a blog post. Never mind. Midwestern to the core!
In further celebration of all things Midwestern, this recipe has another ingredient that I DO remember having throughout my entire childhood: canned fruit. While many fruits lose some, if not most, of their appeal when sealed within a tin of syrup, this particular citrus is the most delicious canned fruit ever invented. That’s right, I’m talking mandarin oranges.
But while my love of these little orange segments was undeniable, I was well aware that they were to be considered a treat. A treat that was to be enjoyed in an occasional salad, a jello side dish (hello Midwest again!), or when under the weather. This last category is obviously less than ideal, but there were times when nothing else sounded good, and man, did those mandarins hit the spot.
Can we take a moment and talk about jello real quick? It’s likely been at least a decade since I’ve last eaten it, but jello sure was great back in the day. We didn’t make it much ourselves, but one of our favorite humans frequently brought not just one, but TWO dishes of the jiggly dessert when she came to visit. You know someone is special when they’re considerate enough to expend extra effort to cater to everyone’s taste buds. And she always brought the same two delicious jello flavors: Black Cherry and Mandarin Orange. Both with their corresponding fruit pieces expertly added at the perfect time so that the bits were evenly distributed throughout the gelatin. May I introduce you to our mom’s sister, the one and only, Aunt Pam.
I wish I had a picture of Aunt Pam with her wiggly creations to share with you, but I assure you she was just as sweet as every spoonful of black cherry and orange jello that she made for us over the years. I’m realizing now that we don’t have a recipe entry in the family cookbook for her jello creations, but now I’m thinking we should. I’ll work on figuring that out, but maybe in the meantime one of the next recipes we get on the blog should be Pam’s Banana Chocolate Chip Bread, because that IS in the book and holy smokes it’s amazing.
Ok, so that was more than a moment, but I’m pretty sure Aunt Pam liked this salad too, so that counts as being related. One might also submit for evidence the fact that in parts of this country you can still find plenty of restaurant menus that offer a side dish titled: “Jello Salad.”
There. A discussion on jello has now been justified in a blog post about salad.
This is the kind of content you can count on over here!
We Hahnestly do our best.
Now howzabout we get to that recipe?
ASIAN CHICKEN SALAD
- 1 cup crispy chow mien noodles
- Head of lettuce, shredded (about 4 cups)
- 3 cups cut-up cooked chicken
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- 4 green onions, sliced
- 1 tbs sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 can mandarin oranges
GINGER SALAD DRESSING
- 1/4 cup peanut oil (or any neutral oil, avocado is good too)
- 1-2 tbs toasted sesame oil (to taste)
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp salt
Pour Ginger Dressing over lettuce, chicken, carrot and onion in large bowl. Toss with noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Top with mandarin oranges.
I’d like to end this post with a reminder that while baking is considered a science, cooking is indeed an art. So these quantities are general suggestions, or starting points if you will. Add more of this, decrease some of that, whatever makes your heart sing!
The original version of this recipe used the chow mien noodles as more of a foundational base to the dish rather than the crunchy topping we use them as now. While 5 cups of the noodles did make the dish more filling, we now prefer to fill up on more veggies and protein when we can. So follow those taste buds and feel free to make this recipe your own!
Except for the oranges. Please keep the mandarin oranges.
They’re my favorite ☺
p.s. while jello clearly didn’t make it into this photo, I hope you enjoy this throw back of me, Aunt Pam, and our coordinating jackets!