This is my on-repeat-all-the-time summer salad. It hits all the right notes: it’s light, fresh, crispy and tangy, and so satisfying.
When I was in university, there was this restaurant halfway between my house and school called Dr. Deli and the Salad Queen, and aside from slinging traditional deli sandwiches, they had an extensive salad menu (of course). I first encountered Chinese Chicken Salad there and immediately became hooked. It was all in their vinaigrette – it had just the right balance of vinegar and sugar to make it mouth-puckering tart but also sweet and light. Being a lover of all things pickley, this was right up my alley. And to balance out that strong vinaigrette, they made the salad super simple: crisp light green iceberg lettuce, sweet mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, shredded roasted chicken (obviously we’re doing a workaround on that one now), and a crunchy topping – either puffed crispy vermicelli noodles or crispy fried wonton strips – depending on what they had on hand that day. It just all worked so beautifully. Every bite had layers of texture and flavour, and yet was still light and easy. It was the perfect summer salad.
Summer is (finally, hopefully) here to stay in Toronto and I’m prepping myself for a season of lighter meals, fresher ingredients and simple preparations. Because as much as I love cooking, hot days + hot ovens do not make me happy. So I’ve been thinking about easy, summer-friendly dishes and this salad came to mind.
My first challenge was recreating that dressing. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve tried at least twelve variations on it to find one that was not too oily, or too tart, or had too many ingredients. It needed to be full of flavour, but clean and simple. Once I had it, the rest was easy.
For the “chicken”, I used Gardein Chick’n strips that I pan-roasted on the stovetop in a little bit of grapeseed oil, fresh cracked pepper and salt. If you’re gluten-free, you could use Beyond Meat Chick’n Strips instead.
This is a great salad to customize. You could easily swap some (or all) of the lettuce for napa cabbage, or a mix of napa and red cabbage. You could add cucumbers or celery or carrots to it; swap the mandarins for strawberries…the possibilities are endless. Or you can go with the classic recipe below.
Asian Chick’n Salad
3 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 – 1/3 cup rice vinegar (depending on how tart you like you dressing)
1 ½ tsp tamari (or dark soy sauce)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
1 225g package vegan chick’n strips
½ tsp fresh cracked pepper
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 10 oz can mandarin orange slices, drained
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 cup crunchy wonton strips (or puffed vermicelli noodles for a GF option)
In a glass mason jar, combine sesame oil, rice vinegar, tamari, vegetable oil and sugar. Seal jar and shake well to combine. Set aside.
In a deep skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering. Add frozen chick’n strips and cook to package directions, adding salt and pepper about halfway through. Remove from pan and allow to cool, patting down strips to remove excess oil. When cool enough to handle, dice or shred into small chunks.
In a large bowl, combine lettuce, mandarin oranges, chick’n pieces and wonton strips. Drizzle dressing on top and toss to coat.