This Chinese Chicken Salad recipe is probably my favorite year round main course salad. It’s healthy, satisfying, and insanely crunchy!
This is the truly BEST Chinese Chicken Salad. Who does your favorite? Wolfgang Puck? The Cheesecake Factory? Applebees? Chin Chin? P.F.Chang? No no no, this one beats them all, trust me. It beats them because it’s fresher, prettier, tastier, and you get to load it with as many crunchy fried wontons as you want. This recipe is sheer perfection…I couldn’t stop eating until I polished off the whole darned thing. I don’t know if it’s the combination of ingredients, or the killer sesame dressing, but I find this salad to be absolutely irresistible. I’ll eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if nobody beats me to it first.
You probably already know that Chinese Chicken Salad isn’t really Chinese at all, it’s a Western invention, in fact, I think it made its debut out here in Los Angles (something to do with Madame Wu’s restaurant and Cary Grant). I’d call it a fusion recipe, but that makes it all the more delicious.
From the crisp sprouts and peppers, to the crunchy nuts and wonton strips, all the way to the velvety mandarin oranges, this salad is a textural masterpiece.
This salad requires some serious chewing ~ in a good way ;)
The cast of characters is simple, but somehow the combination is so much better than the sum of the parts. Once you toss everything together with the dressing, which is a simple mix of rice vinegar and sesame oil, it’s sheer heaven.
Homemade crunchy wontons are super quick and easy to make at home.
Of course, if I’m honest, I have to admit that one of the highlights of this salad is the homemade wonton strips that I make so easily myself. You can buy packages of wonton wrappers in most grocery stores, they’re in the refrigerated section wherever you find tofu. They’re translucent little square sheets of dough that I just slice into thin strips and fry up quickly in a little hot oil. They’re incredibly good. You’ll find yourself hunting them down with every bite, so be sure to make lots.
Don’t worry about having leftover wonton wrappers, you’ll want them around to make my:
Napa, or Chinese cabbage, which does actually come from China, also helps to give this salad that amazing crunch ~ If you have to substitute lettuce, I would go with a super crunchy one, like iceberg or romaine.
I love this salad because it’s completely seasonless. Now that you know how to make the best Chinese chicken salad, you can it eat year round! It makes the best light meal in spring and summer, but you can still find all the ingredients in the colder months ~ it’s a salad superstar.
- Be sure you pick up sesame oil, if you don’t already have some. It’s a richly flavored oil that really makes the dressing taste perfect. It’s very strong, so add a little and taste until you get it how you like it. You’ll use it in lots of stir fry recipes as well, so it won’t go to waste.
- 10 wonton wrappers (more if you like!)
- vegetable oil for frying (I used peanut)
- 1 good sized head Napa cabbage
- 1 lb chicken cutlets, breast, or tenders, grilled and thinly sliced, or use leftover or rotisserie chicken
- 1/4 small red cabbage, shredded
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (or any color you like)
- 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal (white and green parts)
- handful beansprouts
- handful pea-pods, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- 1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts
- 1 11-ounce can mandarin orange slices
- sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 3 Tbsp sesame oil (more to taste)
- dash of sesame seeds
- To make the crispy wontons, slice the wonton wrappers into thin 1/4 inch slices.
- Heat 3 inches of oil in a small saucepan until hot. Drop a test wonton strip in the oil ~ it should fry to golden in about 30 seconds. Adjust the oil if it is too hot or too cool. Fry the wontons, in batches, stirring them around so they cook evenly. Drain on a paper towel.
- Shred the Napa cabbage and rinse well. Dry on a clean kitchen towel. Put the cabbage in a wide shallow salad bowl.
- Arrange the rest of the salad ingredients in bunches around the top of the cabbage. Place the chicken in the center. If you are arranging the salad ahead of time, do not add the wontons or they will get soggy. Add the wonton strips at the last minute. (You can also hold off until after you've dressed the salad and add them on top.)
- Add some of the dressing to the salad and toss, using just enough dressing to lightly coat everything, you can always add more later.
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