Last month, I discovered the Panera Bread Asian Sesame Chicken Salad. It was love at first bite. The ingredients are so simple, but they just sing in your mouth. I could use this sweet and tangy dressing on just about anything.
I did a lot of searching for attempts to copycat this recipe. The best guess came from someone claiming to be a Panera manager.
He said it is just rice vinegar and sugar heated together, then drizzled with non-toasted sesame oil. Since I didn’t have non-toasted sesame oil, I tweaked the recipe a bit, using canola oil and sesame oil.
Also, their version has fried wontons in it. I had left over wonton wrappers that needed to be used, so I fried my own.
Honestly, it isn’t worth it. Next time I am just going to use those little crispy chow mein noodles you can find in the Asian food aisle of the grocery store.
A quick note: I highly recommend using organic lettuce. I am a bird owner. All the experts tell bird owners to never feed your bird conventionally grown lettuce because it sucks in pesticides and keeps it in the water in their leaves. It can easily kill your bird…do you really want to put that in your body? I know I don’t.
But, if you buy organic lettuce, wash it at least twice in a water bath. Organic means natural, natural means bugs. You get my drift.
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
makes 3 main dish salads
1/2 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons canola or other mild flavored oil
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup oil for frying
10 wonton wrappers, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 cup crispy chow mein noodles
1 large head green leaf lettuce, washed
1 bunch cilantro, washed, stems removed
1 1/2 cup cooked chicken, sliced
To make the dressing: In a small sauce pan, heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves, stirring often. Let it cool completely. Mix the oils together. Whisking constantly, very slowly pour in the oil mix to make an emulsion. Add salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. Set aside.
If using the wonton wrappers: heat oil in a skillet to 350 degrees. Working in small batches, lay the wonton strips in the hot oil. Fry for 20-30 seconds on each side (until light golden brown), then quickly remove to a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with salt.
To assemble the salad: Mix the lettuce and cilantro together. Divide into 3 large bowls. Add chicken strips and wontons or chow mein noodles. When ready to serve, drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. If you want, you could add shredded cabbage, carrots, sliced almonds, or slices of mandarin oranges.
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