Building a Better Asian Chicken Salad

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From the files comes a recipe for Asian Chicken Salad from a 2003 Gourmet.  Not quite a Chinese Chicken Salad, as much as a a slaw, it has tender Napa cabbage, shredded chicken, snow peas, cucumber, scallions and cilantro in a soy-ginger dressing.  The strong flavors of the dressing overwhelmed the more subtle ingredients, creating a blanket of monotony.  It could’ve used an Applebee’s touch – peanuts, mandarin oranges, water chestnuts, fried chow mein noodles – for more variety, but alas.

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When I put the salad ingredients away, I realized that I had, not a disappointing salad, but building blocks for future experiments.  First up were Vietnamese summer rolls, which are essentially salads in rice wrappers.  Into the roll went the cabbage flecked with scallions and cilantro, chicken, cucumber, slices of baked tofu, rice noodles and basil.  The dressing transformed into a dipping sauce with a blob of hoisin sauce and peanut butter.  Aside from the amateur wrap job, it was a worthy endeavor, better than its original incarnation.

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Since I was already consulting Into the Vietnamese Kitchen for the summer rolls, I noticed a recipe for Spicy Cabbage and Chicken Salad.  Essentially, much of what I already had  – cabbage and chicken – along with pickled onions (no thanks) and grated carrots, the salad had a more spicy, fish-y, vinegar-y dressing, to be eaten atop a rice soup.  The super pungent dressing dissipates into the creamy rice porridge, which also wilts the cabbage.  Homey and delicious, not like Applebee’s at all.

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