Asian Spa Salad


There is a mediocre (at best) restaurant in the town where I went to college, and I’m now ashamed when I think about how often I ate there. I always ordered the Asian Spa Salad which, in retrospect, was really pretty terrible: a bunch of iceberg lettuce in a fat free, chemical-laden, overly sweet dressing with chunks of rubbery chicken.

I realized that the idea of the salad was great – light and healthy with lots of lean protein, vegetables and a nice orange-soy flavored dressing – but the execution left a lot to be desired. To say that this is a big improvement on that horrendous salad is a gross understatement!

Weekends are my cooking project time. Last weekend it was vegan arroz con leche with brown rice (still working the kinks out of that one), and this weekend it was the Asian Spa Salad (new and improved). I started with Napa cabbage, but realized it looks a little anemic on its own.

I added some spinach because it’s just so healthy and beautiful and green.

There are also some thin slices of green onion in there.

For the dressing, I boiled some orange juice, soy sauce, and mirin until it was nice and syrupy (and finally broke my streak of adding sugar to salad dressing!) I marinated some chicken in soy sauce and chopped garlic and let it sit for about 8 hours. If you think marinades need to be fancy, complicated affairs with multiple spices, vinegars, oils, and fruit juices, think again! This 2-ingredient marinade was absolutely perfect.

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts*
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
2 cups shredded spinach (cut the leaves into strips)
3 tbsp thinly sliced green onion
1 medium carrot, shaved into strips with a vegetable peeler
2 tsbp sesame seeds

1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil

*I prefer bone-in, skin-on because I think the meat cooks up nicely and I love having bones around to use in stock. But if you prefer, boneless skinless will be fine – they will just cook faster.

Put the soy sauce, garlic, and chicken in a shallow bowl and turn the chicken pieces to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
Cook the chicken in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes (check after about 20 if you’re using boneless-skinless) or until the internal temperature is 165 F.
Remove and set aside to cool.

While the chicken is in the oven, boil the orange juice, soy sauce, and mirin together until thick, syrupy, and reduced by half. Remove from the heat to cool, then stir in the sesame oil.

Pull the skin off the chicken and cut the meat off the bone. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Toss together the cabbage, spinach, carrot, green onions, and add the dressing.
Toss in the chicken, then sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

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