I’ve been wanting to come up with a healthy recipe for Chinese chicken salad. I love the brightness of oranges and tangerines in salad, and combining their juice with some Asian ingredients makes a flavorful dressing. But all to often when ordering an Asian chicken salad in restaurants, the salad dressing is loaded with sugar (as is the chicken marinade) and the the salad itself has mountains of friend wonton strips piled on top. I decided to keep my recipe simple using seasonal spinach, carrots and tangerines to make a flavorful, healthy and easy Chinese chicken salad recipe.
I mentioned in my corn and bell pepper soup post that you could expect to see some fancy spinach salad recipes coming up. At the end of winter I’m craving salads and desperate for the freshness of spring produce. But it’s not quite time so spinach salads are a great way to eat seasonally and sustainably while still tapping into my warm weather fantasies (so are cabbage salads, one of my favorites will be up next week!).
The awesome thing about making this a winter weather salad, is that so many different varieties of tangerines and mandarins are in season from early winter to early spring. I’ve now made this salad with clementine mandarins, tangelos, fancy mandarins and even canned mandarin oranges. While I’d always recommend the fresh citrus, if you’ve got a can of mandarin segments to use up, or perhaps get a can from the foodbank, this is a beautiful affordable recipe to use it in.
I tried to use simple ingredients, notice the marinade and dressing and very similar. The only difference in ingredients is honey for the chicken and brown sugar for the dressing, and the addition of ginger powder to the salad dressing. Whatever you do, don’t buy the little bottle of ginger powder. You can get spices so much cheaper if you buy them in a bulk section. A lot of grocery stores have a little bookshelf type stand with jars of spices that you can measure out to buy exactly how much you want. That way you’re getting your spices for pennies instead of dollars.
For the Asian ingredients (rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil) see if there’s an Asian market in your area. This is always cheaper than the little ethnic aisle at a regular grocery store. If you don’t have one within an hour of you try looking online. A 12 oz bottle of rice vinegar would cost me $4-5 at a general grocery store, but only $2 at Asian Food Grocer. Although there are shipping costs, if you get several items at such a discounted rate, you’ll still save money even with shipping.
Well I’m off to go watch Gnomeo and Juliet with Eric and my brother Jason. My brother is 23 and autistic. We love taking him to kids movies because he will often giggle uncontrollably and that’s a very contagious thing. We love to laugh! I’ll share on Twitter if we liked the movie or not
Mandarin Chicken Salad Recipeserves 2
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup honey
1 TBS rice vinegar
1 TBS soy sauce (I use Aloha shoyu)
1 TBS tangerine juice (or orange juice)
1 TBS sesame oil
4 cups baby spinach (very loosely packed)
2 carrots julienned (here’s my julienne peeler)
1 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 TBS rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp ginger powder
2 TBS tangerine juice (or orange juice)
Seal the chicken breast in a heavy duty zip top plastic bag, pressing out most of the air. Use the flat side of a meat hammer (or a rolling pin) to pound the chicken to an even thickness. Remove from the bag and slice the chicken into bite size strips.
In a medium bowl mix together the honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, tangerine juice and sesame oil for the chicken marinade. Add the raw chicken pieces and stir to coat. Let the chicken sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
Divide spinach between two plates and sprinkle with julienned carrots.
In a small bowl whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger powder and tangerine juice for dressing. Set the dressing aside.
Heat a wok or non-stick frying pan on medium high. Add marinated chicken and stir frequently while cooking (to prevent honey from burning). Once chicken is a golden brown remove from heat and let cool.
Top spinach and carrots with chicken and drizzle with dressing.
Approximate cost/serving: I get a one pound box of spinach (which fluffs out enough to feed us for a month) for around $3. Carrots are crazy cheap. The costliest item is chicken breasts, especially if you’re going for humanely raised chickens. Still, the recipe only cost me $1.60 to make for two of us, so that’s just 80 cents a serving!
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: You can marinate chunks of tofu and pan fry them instead of chicken to make this vegetarian. For gluten free use gluten free soy sauce or tamari.