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Asian Inspired Chicken Salad



Every so often you come across a recipe that whether you know it at the time or not, will become a regular in your meal line up. I ran into one of these types of recipes over 20 years ago, when I had dinner at the home of my college choir director.

I remember thinking his wife was one of the most exotic cooks I had ever met. Their ice box was full of condiments, but not regular, every day condiments...they had exotic stuff in there...gourmet ketchups and mustards, odd pickled veggies, etc. I ate asparagus for the first time at their table. I also learned a tomato based marinade for chicken that unfortunately, I don't remember and apparently never wrote down. But of all the wonderful things I consumed in their company, this salad recipe was my favorite. Perhaps because it started with something so lowly, so humble...a package of chicken flavored ramen noodles.

I think every college student on the planet has eaten ramen noodles. Most of us survived on them the majority of the time. But I had never eaten them like this.

The salad part is simple. The base is shredded napa cabbage. I always add some slivered sweet onion,some chopped scallions and sliced English cucumber. Other good things to add include toasted sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and toasted almonds. You even use the noodles, but instead of boiling them, you break them up and toast them with the almonds and sesame seeds. But the magic...the truly delicious part of this dish...is the dressing.
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 c. salad oil
few shakes soy sauce
few shakes toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Flavor pkg. from Ramen
Put all that in a mason jar or tightly sealed plastic bowl and shake the crap out of it. The better the emulsification, the better it will taste. Making it the day before makes it even better.

After you make the salad part, you toss everything with the dressing and serve. Over the years I've learned to keep the almonds and noodles separate. That way you can have leftover salad the next day and sprinkle the still crunchy noodles and almonds on it again. If you don't, the noodles and almonds will soften, which doesn't taste bad, but doesn't have the same flavor and texture impact. To make this a main dish (as I did in the above photo) just add grilled chicken or shrimp on top.

In my mind, this is the perfect summer dinner.

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