This easy chicken salad has become a family favorite. It’s light, healthy, quick and addictively delicious. Mildly sweet, savory ginger miso dressing kicks everything up a notch! Plus, using perfect poached chicken breasts means the salad comes together in a snap!
As the weather warms up, we all start craving fresher, lighter meals. Personally, I usually begin craving what I affectionately call “Asian chicken salad”.
Until now, this salad was not a recipe. It was more of a taste memory from my teenage years. When I was growing up, our local shopping mall had a popular smoothie shop which was run by Asian immigrants. However, their best kept secret wasn’t the smoothies, it was the chicken salad. That salad was so delicious that I’ve never forgotten — or gotten over — it.
This year, I finally realised that one of the secrets of that delicious salad was a miso dressing. If miso has been one of those “exotic” ingredients you haven’t yet tried, you really don’t know what you’re missing!
Miso is a traditional Japanese ingredient which is made from fermented soy beans. It is a rich, earthy, mildly salty, flavour bomb.
Miso comes in three varieties — white, red and brown. Its flavour becomes progressively richer, as the colour gets darker. For this recipe, either white or red miso, which are both widely available in Asian markets in South Africa, is what I would recommend.
In a pinch, Korean doenjang — which is similar — may be substituted for the miso. However, I find the doenjang a bit saltier than traditional miso. So, if you’re using doenjang, start with half the quantity, taste, and adjust as needed.
Ginger Miso Dressing
Since I realised that the dressing was key to recreating my favourite salad, I’ve been playing around with the recipe. It was important to me to get it just right. I think I’ve finally arrived at the perfect sweet, salty, savoury balance and it’s as addictive as ever!
So, don’t say you haven’t been warned! You might even want to double or triple the dressing recipe, because you’ll be craving more of it, guaranteed.
Julienned Carrots & Kinpira Peelers
You will notice that I call for julienned carrots in this recipe. You could consider grating your carrots on a box grater — which changes the texture — or peeling them into ribbons with a vegetable peeler.
However, I confess, I really like the size and texture of the julienned carrots in this recipe. They absorb just the right amount of delicious dressing and are a good match for the shredded Napa cabbage.
Since I am not a glutton for punishment — despite my fussiness about vegetable cuts — I thought I should share my favourite time saving tool for this task. It’s a Japanese tool, called a kinpira peeler.
Kinpira simply means julienne in Japanese. This sharp cutting tool makes julienned carrots a cinch and is perfect for small quantities, such as in this recipe. If you want to prepare your own coleslaw mix — rather than buying it — you’ll likely find yourself using this tool pretty frequently and it’s an investment I highly recommend.
For now, I hope you and your family fall in love with this light, healthy, addictive salad just as mine has. Bon appétit!
Asian Chicken Salad with Honey Miso Dressing
This is chicken salad is so addictive that I had to recreate it 40 years later to satisfy a craving. A light, healthy meal the whole family -- including salad haters -- is sure to adore.
- For the dressing
- 2 heaping tablespoons white miso
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (also known as sushi vinegar)
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup peanut oil (or neutral flavoured oil, such as canola)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, grated or pressed
- For the salad
- 4 perfect poached chicken breasts, shredded
- 1 purple (or green) Napa cabbage (about 700 g, 1.5 lbs), washed, cored, and finely shredded
- 2 carrots, washed, peeled, and julienned
- 4 spring onions, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
- Micro coriander or basil, to garnish (optional)
- Step 1 Whisk together dressing ingredients. Set aside to allow flavours to blend.
- Step 2 Prepare the salad ingredients (except the optional garnish). Place them in a large mixing bowl, and toss to thoroughly to combine.
- Step 3 Finally, drizzle the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss until the dressing coats all the ingredients. Garnish with micro herbs, if desired, and serve immediately.