Recovering the Loss
I hate it when restaurants go out of business and take my favorite menu items with them. Food writers call it Lost Dishes. One of those I still mourn today is Cardwell’s Chinese Barbecued Chicken Salad. It was so fresh and crisp, loaded with cabbge/lettuce, and broccoli and topped with crispy wontons, peanuts, and daikon radish sprouts. All coupled with a divine Peanut Dressing.
Then, like a gastronomique miracle, I found the recipe online! The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had printed the original recipe years ago. Whoop-de-do!! I gave it a try last weekend (twice) with stellar results.
Playing with the Peanut Sauce
I did, however, make a few adjustments. The peanut sauce was a bit too thick, so I added water until it was just right. Come to think of it, chicken broth might have been even better.
The recipe makes about 2-1/2 cups of dressing, so you might have a bit left over, that is, unless you decide to finish it off by the spoonful.
Crisping Those Wontons
I had the most fun playing with the wonton skins. They’re sliced into 1/4″ pieces and fried until crisp and golden. You have to pay attention here, because some pieces want to over cook. I threw those out—some I ate for testing purposes. 🙂
The next day when I made more of the salad, my niece, Katy, took over the wonton cooking. She pressed a bit of Maldon salt into the pieces before putting them in the skillet. I liked that, though it added a bit of tedium to the preparation.
Adding the Chinese Barbecue Sauce
This salad can be made with or without chicken. When using poultry, I look for the flattest chicken breasts I can fine or I pound them thin.
Then I shellac the chicken with some Char-Siu Sauce (a Chinese barbecue sauce), and cook the pieces in a skillet about 3 minutes on each side or until inside is no longer pink. Then I slice the chicken into thin strips before including in the salad. Or you can offer the barbecued chicken slices in a bowl when serving as a do-it-yourself-salad.
In a hurry? Leave off the barbecue sauce and grab a rotisserie chicken at the grocery. Or go vegetarian with no chicken at all.