Chinese chicken salad has been around certainly since the 1950s, where it probably first appeared in San Francisco. A vintage cookbook from 1963, Eight Immortal Flavors, by Johnny Kan, has the recipe for one served at his then-famous restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Kan’s chicken salad, typical of Cantonese cuisine, was a modest combination of chicken, hot mustard, scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds, served on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce. It was austere compared to the version I grew up on, the retro classic including canned mandarin orange sections, deep-fried chow mein noodles and a dressing of soy sauce, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil.
When I got the yen to update this savory-and-sweet salad, my goals were to use crisp fresh greens with more flavor than iceberg lettuce and to reduce the fat and sodium. My first decision was to keep the citrus and scallions but skip the fried noodles.
Using sliced fresh bok choy kept the crunch of the lost noodles. Tossing it with scallions and spinach added more flavor along with a nutritional boost. Then I discovered that when you slice a Clementine crosswise, the slices fall apart into petite wedges. These bite size pieces are perfect to replace the canned mandarin orange slices.
To improve the dressing, I combined juice from a Clementine with ginger and a hit of sriracha sauce and added these to the expected soy sauce and rice vinegar. The flavor from their heat let me use less sesame oil and sodium-laden soy sauce. Finally, toasted almonds on top replace Kan’s sesame seeds.
Bok Choy and Spinach Salad with Chicken and Clementines
- 2 (6 oz.) skinless and boneless chicken breasts
- 3 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 cups baby spinach, lightly packed
- 4 leaves bok choy
- 1/2 cup sliced scallions, green and white parts
- 2 Clementines
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp. grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp. sriracha sauce, optional
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
In medium saucepan, place chicken and broth over medium-high heat. When bubbles just appear, about 8 minutes, reduce heat and cook with liquid simmering until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into thickest part of breast or chicken looks white when cut in center, about 20 minutes. Cool chicken in broth until cool enough to tear into bite-size pieces. Pour broth through strainer lined with paper towel, and reserve for another use.
Place spinach in salad bowl. Cut white part of bok choy leaves crosswise into thin slices and add to spinach. Reserve green leafy part to use in soup or stir-fry. Add scallions, and arrange chicken over greens. Cut one Clementine crosswise into thin slices. Remove peel, separate slices into thin wedges, and add to salad.
Halve remaining Clementine crosswise and squeeze juice into small bowl. Add lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sriracha sauce, if using, salt and 3-4 grinds pepper, whisking to combine. Whisk in oil. Pour dressing over salad. Sprinkle on almonds.
To serve, toss salad, and divide among 4 individual, wide salad bowls or medium-sized plates.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 185 calories, 7 g total fat, (1 g saturated fat), 10 g carbohydrate, 23 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 290 mg sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.