Chinese Chicken Salad


(click on photo for shot-by-shot food styling and photography analysis of some of the photos that led up to the “money shot”)

Chinese restaurants in China don’t really have Chinese Chicken Salad on their menus, it’s a creation of Chinese-American restaurants! According to Cecilia Chiang, author of The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco(one of my all time favorite Chinese American cookbooks), lettuce was rare and imported in China, and “salads” referred to pickled items. But, I still love a good Chinese Chicken Salad, especially if it’s got a tangy, sweet sauce and crunchy bits of fried wonton strips.

But please, Applebee’s restaurant, can we rename your “Oriental Chicken Salad” to something more hip? Asian Chicken Salad or Chinese Chicken Salad would be much better. Oriental is such a dated word…so..19th century!*

Recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad is below.


Food Styling and Photography

Many of you requested that I continue posting my shot-by-shot analysis of all the failed photos that led up to this one that I like…my “money shot.” I also show you my photo setup – which really doesn’t change too much during the “NOT-winter” season. I use natural light as much as I can, and when dreary winter comes along, I switch to using my Lowel EGO lights.

Vegan Yum Yum just posted a fabulous write up on food photography – make sure you check it out.

For more food photography posts, I have a whole category called “Food Photography/Blog Tips.”

Updated Steamy Kitchen Web Design

Do you like the new look? Cleaner, brighter and much faster. I’m still working on it, but I think this is a lighter design that fits my personality more.

Guess what? Now I have a print functionality!!! If you want to print out a recipe without the sidebars and ads and stuff, there is a little print icon right next to each post’s header text. Click on that and you’ll get a nice, clean version that you can print out.

This Chinese Chicken Salad recipe makes a really quick light meal if you use store-bought roasted chicken and pre-fried crispy noodles (found in a bag or canister in the Asian section of supermarket.) I like to get a whole rotisserie chicken, use the breasts for the salad and the remaining meat for paninis the next day. The bones? I throw them in a pot, add water carrots, celery and make a very flavorful soup. Don’t waste the bones of a roasted chicken!

You can also throw in a handful of almonds too. The dressing for this Chinese Chicken Salad is one of my husband’s favorites – a copycat version of Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad dressing which is a tangy and sweet.

Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe

serves 4-6

15 wonton skins, cut into strips (or if you don’t want to fry: 1 cup fried crispy chow mein noodles)
oil for frying
1 head lettuce, leaves shredded or torn
2 cooked chicken breasts, meat shredded with your fingers
1 cucumber, sliced
handful snow peas, sliced on diagonal
11 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

For the dressing
a la Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad Dressing

makes scant 1 cup (use half for the salad and store the rest in refrigerator)

6 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

To make the salad dressing, whisk together the honey, mayonnaise, mustard until very smooth. Then whisk in the oil and vinegar.

To fry the wonton skin strips, heat 1 inch of oil until 375F. If you don’t have a thermometer, just slide one wonton strip into the oil – it should sizzle immediately and turn light golden brown in about 30 seconds. Fry the wonton strips in several batches and drain on a rack or layers of paper towels. Each batch should take about 30 seconds to 1 minute to fry.

Assemble Chinese Chicken Salad with lettuce, chicken, cucumber, snow peas, mandarin oranges. Drizzle on salad dressing and sprinkle with wonton strips.

How to poach chicken breasts

If you have uncooked chicken breasts, you can poach the chicken breasts. In a medium pot, add the chicken breasts and fill with water or broth 1 inch above the chicken. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt to the water. Bring the pot to a boil and immediately turn the heat to low, simmering for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let sit for 20 minutes. Save the poaching liquid for cooking or for soup. There you go…perfectly poached chicken breasts!


Classy Is My Middle Name

The winner of the cookbook, Dave’s Dinners signed by Dave Lieberman is Lynn, the Half Asian. Part of the fun was to have each of you guess what my pickup line to Dave Lieberman was, when I first met him. Though your answers had nothing to do with winning – it was just for shits and giggles.

Here’s what Lynn thought I said:

“I don’t have to show my husband the film…”

Funny! Even though that’s not what I said, Lynn is the random winner that  was chosen by the Psychic Science random number generator. Congrats! Email me at [email protected] with your address.

So, what was my pickup line to Dave Lieberman?

Dave Lieberman

“Ohmygod. I have lens envy!”

Clearly, his was big.

imabigdork. Yes, that’s exactly what I said to him the moment I saw Dave Lieberman. And he was sooo sweet, offering me use of his big lens. But after further inspection of his big lens, we discovered his big lens didn’t fit into my camera.** Just wasn’t a good fit, which was just too bad. We tried, but it didn’t work out.***



*The word “Oriental” is not offensive at all to me (very few things actually offend annoying people like me) It’s like the word “Chinaman” – not offensive, it’s just a dated word that people don’t use anymore. Funky seeing the word “Oriental” on a big chain’s menu!

**My camera is very capable of handling big lenses, just not Dave’s big lens. Seems like wrong type. (ahem)

***But if you must know, his big lens fits his Canon Rebel XT but isn’t compatible with my Canon 40D.

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Comments 50

  1. Single Guy Chef

    Hey Steamy, loved your step by step analysis of styling your food shot. You’re such a good stylist. I just throw the food on the plate and hope it looks “natural” and not too sloppy. The end result was gorgeous! And I hate Oriental Chicken Salad too!

  2. Veronica

    On the oriental subject: I’ve always wondered what oriental flavored ramen noodles was made of. What flavors actually make it “oriental”?

    I’m going to pick up some of those lowel ego lights. Right now, I use a point and shoot camera. It pretty much sucks. I figure I’ll try to improve my lighting while I save up to buy a decent camera.

  3. Sowjanya

    love love this new look. It makes me want to click and look around more (not that i didn’t do it with the old one) but this feels like it’s more lively 🙂

  4. Mikky

    love your new look… but doesn’t matter much to me… i just love your site, period… :)… btw, great looking salad, another must try…

  5. noobcook

    I love the lighter new design, and thank you so much for sharing your shot-by-shot photography analysis … there is so much to learn from you! The chicken salad looks so delicious… especially with the “horns” hehe

  6. chanise

    Just curious… why is “oriental” chicken salad an issue, but “chinkify” isn’t?

    The word “Oriental” is not offensive at all to me (very few things actually offend annoying people like me) It’s just a dated word that people don’t use anymore and funky seeing it on a big chain’s menu! ~jaden

  7. chanise

    Fair enoughthis is your blog after all. It was just a little misleading since the article you linked was about the term oriental being a term of disparagement, so I thought you shared that feeling. I know my family and friends arent too fond of chink, and I guess it just saddens me to see the term being perpetuated by a respected and talented person.

    Well, enough of this PC (political correctness) stuff… Ive enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you.

    okok! yes, I totally understand the word “chink” – I grew up in the middle of nowhere and the school kids back then called me chink, because I was like the ONLY asian kid in school. It really stung back then, and the word had so much power over me. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided that no 5 letter word would have that power over me. But then the more “unspoken” and banned that a word is, the more power it had. So, as warped as I am, I believe that humor heals all…which is why I can make fun of a word, like “chinkify” and can laugh at it. But yeah, some people deal with things differently, so humor might not work for all. When I write for responsible publications, of course I need to be a good member of society and behave! But for a personal blog, I took the decision to just be myself. ~jaden

  8. Nate


    I like the new, faster design. The maroonish header…ehhh. I think the red one stood out better.

    Thanks for the step-by-step for your photo shoot, and the link to that excellent post on Vegan YumYum. I gotta rearrange my setup…and get more plates…and get that delicious 60 mm macro lens…

  9. nathan

    I like the new design. It’s much brighter, more bubbly, and doesn’t give me an error from Flash anymore. It seems to fit your personality better – at least what I can tell from your writing :).

    My only suggestion would be to change the google ad at the bottom of the post so that the green matches the green tones you’re using on the rest of the blog.

  10. threemilechild

    I like the new design — and my decade-old computer likes it /lots/ better. 🙂

    My family loves that “Oriental” salad dressing from Applebees, too; the copycat I use is similar. It’s also really great as a slaw dressing, with cabbage and carrot and maybe a little cilantro.

    Also, are you taking requests for adaptations of Chinese delivery food? Because if you are, please, please consider egg foo young! We get this wonderful version from a place around here that has a rich, flavourful dark brown sauce (soy and ginger, obviously, but I’m stuck on everything else) rather than that bland pale gravy that you get everywhere else. I’m going to be so sad to be moving… it would be great to be able to make a version I liked!

  11. Mike

    lol about the “oriental” word usage (and the Dave meet up comment), and a good point about Applebee’s…its funny, I only hear the word used across generational bounds. As for the salad, it sounds tasty and I enjoyed seeing the shot-by-shot of the photos. I wish I could say I were as observant when I do my photo shoots…for me, its been more of a parade of angles and crossed fingers.

  12. Esi

    Thanks for the photo analysis. I just had my Lowel light delivered today so I can’t wait to try it out! Awww, shucks, I didn’t win! 🙂 Next time, I hope 🙂

  13. Cakebrain

    Yum! I love “Hand-shredded Chicken Salad” that you get in Chinese restaurants ’cause they have house-made pickled veggies (mei choi?) and pickled papaya and tons of toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. There ain’t any lettuce to speak of. Just julienned crunchy cucumbers, carrots, green onion, shredded fried wonton skins, cilantro, and of course the shredded poached chicken (including the skin! yum yum!) Some restaurants do add jelly fish too, which I’m not particularly fond of since to me they don’t taste like food in any way! I’m glad your version doesn’t have jelly fish! I’ll have to give it a try!

  14. Justopia

    Love the step-by-step analysis and detail. I have been talking about how I just don’t know how to style food when I plate it up on my show each night and your info really helps! Thank you.

  15. diva

    lens envy?! i totally have tht too because your shots are always so beautiful and perfect. gorgeous looking salad.

  16. Leslie

    That salad looks sooo tasty! I’m going to whip some up this week for lunch. Have you ever tried using light mayo for the dressing?

    Here is my white girl question of the day. As far as the word “Oriental” … what would be the preferred word to use for the salad dressing? Asian? Or is it better to be more specific and use Japanese, Chinese, Thai, etc? of course, it’s actually American though, isn’t it? I’ve never seen Oriental Salad dressing at any restaurant other than an Applebee’s or TGIFridays type chain. I had no idea the word Oriental was anywhere near offensive, I thought of it as a throwback to the days when “The Orient” was a far away exotic place that very few English speaking people ever had the opportunity to visit or even learn about.

    Similarly, I often ponder the use of the word “African” to describe cuisine, art, travel, etc. It begs the questions “WHERE in Africa?”. I mean, it’s big place people! LOL. Do people from other countries say they are going to visit North America? I think not….

    Thanks for a thought-provoking and drool-producing post! I like the new design! (I usually read your blog via RSS feed, so I had to make a special trip to come check it out. -g-)

  17. mimi

    Using the word “oriental” is very dated. Think about how often Westerns are referred to as “occidental.” Hardly ever, right? And I do think many Asians take offense to it exactly as Leslie described when she said it invokes images of an “exotic” place. Taking that a short step farther, me being a Chinese woman, I would not like it if someone called me exotic just because I’m Chinese. I’m Chinese-American, for crissakes — that’s really not very exotic at all, and neither is an oriental chicken salad, for that matter.(I had to bring it back to the salad, somehow!)

    Jaden, I *get* the “chink” comment. In many ways, it’s much like the “n word” — possibly empowering when used by other “n’s” but highly offensive when used by “non-n’s.” It’s such a slippery slope, I kind think just to be safe, no one should use the n word!

    Over n out!

  18. Marysol

    Jaden, I considered every one of the shots taken “the money shot.” And I’ll bet that chinese chicken salad was also a religious experience in terms of taste.

  19. Ryan Detzel

    Hey Jaden, I’ve been doing guest spots over at The Pioneer Woman Cooks. As a fellow foodie and photographer I just want to say that your work is absolutely amazing looking. Love it…keep it up.

  20. Bronwyn

    I was puzzled at the reference to not being offended by “oriental”. I wasn’t aware that there was anything about it that anyone could take offence at! I certainly wouldn’t be offended at being called occidental, dated though it may be. “Oriental” seems rather romantic and sexy actually! Partly because of its dated-ness I suspect – it has overtones of the twenties and thirties and excessively rich maharajahs and suchlike.

  21. Jude

    I’m really liking the shot-by-shots. So many great pointers!
    I started with your posts on the lowel ego a while back and I’m always learning something new each day.

  22. Jasmine

    Hi Jaden,

    I like the new look of the website! A suggestion: How about putting up a newer photo of yourself on the top banner? 🙂


  23. Carrie Hasson

    how strange that it fits the rebel and not 40D?! maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, or maybe it was just bad timing and performance anxiety (hehe
    love the new pink on your blog btw

  24. Terry B

    Another beautiful, delicious sounding dish, Jaden! Regarding there not being an actual Chinese Chicken Salad in true Chinese cooking, that’s one of the wonderful things about eating and cooking right now. For all the locavore push to eat local, our palates have gone global. Personally, I’m a shameless borrower of ingredients and techniques from all over the planet, and I love to mix and match them.

    Oh, and I looove the photo tips! Those alone are reasons to keep coming back.

  25. kellypea

    Love the commentary you’re providing on your shoots. I’m barely able to get my act together, let alone commenting on photos, too. The salad looks scrumptious! Loved the video with Lieberman…and your innuendos. Hilarious.

  26. Carolyn Jung

    I’m liking the new blog look. It’s kind of like a woman getting a new hairdo that’s simpler, and thus more modern and timeless looking. And just think, you don’t even have to deal with split ends in this version.

  27. Laurel

    I LOVE Orie…I mean Asian Chicken salad! I’m sure you’ve heard of using uncooked “Top Ramen” noodles for a Chinese Chicken Salad? You can use the sodium…I mean flavor packet as part of the dressing. If I bring this salad to a function, I use shredded cabbage and the salad then holds up very well.

    FYI: Love your blog!!!

  28. Kristin

    This was dinner last night. Used only 2 Tbsp honey in dressing, plus homemade mayo. Baked wonton wrappers instead of fried. Had green bell pepper but no cukes or snow peas. Used fresh orange sections b/c we had no mandarins in a can. Added an avocado I needed to use up. It was delicious. Thanks! Want to make it again soon with the snow peas and cucumbers.

  29. chefjen

    Hey you, nice rundown of the food styling! I dont think people get what goes into a good shot. I have been working as a stylist for years, it is fun, isn’t it??
    Nice post, Thanks.

  30. Christine

    Hi Jaden,
    VitalJuice is launching a new recipes edition and we’d love to feature this recipe. If you could email me at [email protected], that would be great!

    Christine Chung

  31. Erin

    MMM yum! I’ve been looking for new meal ideas for a long time, I’ve gotten bored with the same old, same old. Thanks.

  32. josie

    Thank you for this recipe! I look forward to trying it out very soon. I’m very happy to have finally discovered your site!

  33. wypadek przy pracy

    Vielen Dank für dieses Blog-es ist toll! Ich mag diese Art von Menschen, die Wissen mit anderen zu teilen.

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