The History of Chinese Chicken Salad
Chinese-style salads started to appear in the West during the 1930s, although modern recipes for Chinese chicken salad bear very little resemblance to the earlier ones. Raw salads were not eaten in Asia back then because raw vegetables were not safe to eat and the Chinese did not want to eat them like that anyway. Instead, traditional salads in China consisted of stir-fried or blanched vegetables and they were served hot or cold.
Most Chinese chicken salad recipes seem to come from the province of Szechuan. Bong bong or pong pong chicken was (and still is) especially popular and this is made by combining shredded chicken and bean sprouts with a garlic, red bell pepper and peanut sauce.
The Chinese chicken salad that you might be more familiar with, containing shredded iceberg lettuce, roast chicken strips, crispy fried noodles and a sesame oil dressing is believed to have originated in California rather than China! One oriental salad recipe dating back to 1923 contains diced figs, prunes, dates, pineapple, and nuts as well as “one cup of salad dressing” which does not actually sound particularly Asian, apart from the exotic fruit.
Chinese Salad Dressings
Most dressings were spiced mayonnaise or vinaigrette, although a few Chinese chicken salad recipes from the 1930s did call for soy sauce. Asian salad dressing started to become popular in the 1960s and they were promoted during the 1980s as being healthier than most other salad dressing recipes. You can imagine how different modern Chinese chicken salads are from their predecessors. Perhaps you have made your own Chinese chicken salad recipes already.
Add an Oriental Touch to Your Next Salad
A salad does not have to be all-Chinese or all-American. Why not combine more than one cuisine the next time you make a salad recipe? For instance, you can add some bean sprouts to a green salad to introduce some crunch, or swap your usual extra-virgin olive oil for half extra-virgin olive oil and half sesame oil. Add some Chinese spices to your chicken before making a chicken salad recipe, or swap the chicken for roast duck and add mandarin segments for an oriental touch.
You can even garnish your Chinese fusion salad with something fun like a carved carrot rose. Cut a one inch segment of carrot, and then use a short-blade carving knife to cut away chunks, to form petals. Keep your carved carrot rose in water until you are ready to serve it. It might take a bit of practice to get your rose looking like a rose, but it is fun trying! Other possible garnishes for an Asian salad include matchstick-cut cucumber, pineapple chunks, or roasted cashews.
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