Chinois Chicken Salad

There are a handful of signature salads that I enjoy eating when I dine out, and the Chinois chicken salad is one such salad. A few years ago, I met my BFF (best friend forever), aka, Auntie S, at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois Cafe in South Coast Plaza. She shared with me that she really enjoys their chicken salad so I decided to give it a try. I’m a huge fan of Asian inspired chicken salad, but I am p-i-c-k-y! There are very few Asian chicken salads that I love, yet, I found myself really enjoying this. I was hooked!

The Chinois chicken salad is a mix of napa cabbage and romaine lettuce, mixed with a generous helping of cilantro and tossed with tiny crispy wonton strips, toasted sesame seeds, scallions and thinly julienned snow peas. My favorite aspect of this salad is the savory, slightly tart vinaigrette with it’s hint of mustard spice. It differs from my favorite chinese chicken salad recipe in that it appeals more to my savory palette. The chinese chicken salad recipe I often enjoy at home is sweeter, and this savory mustard vinaigrette was a refreshing change of pace.

A few months ago, Bebe E, Auntie S and I, found ourselves once again at South Coast Plaza for a girls’ day out. We quickly decided to revisit Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois Cafe and we both ordered the chicken salad. When we were almost done with our salads, I turned to Auntie S, and said what I hate saying when we’re dining out: “I bet we could make this at home.” That night, I was lucky to find this salad recipe on Wolfgang Puck’s website (thank you, Chef Puck!), and soon enough we made plans to have dinner at our house for Chinois chicken salad night.

Now, THAT was a good night. :)

We planned our chicken salad night on our regularly scheduled gym night. The BFF and I have a standing gym date where we spend 50% of our time working out and 50% of our time doing what best girlfriends do best… catch-up on our week, check-in on our families, laugh about silly stuff, complain about anything that we need to vent about, and in general make the most of our girl time. Instead of half-an-hour on the treadmill and a few weight machines, we hung out at home, ate chicken salad for dinner and Beard Papa cream puffs for dessert. It was indeed a good night.

Chinois Chicken Salad

(serves four)

for mustard vinaigrette dressing:

  • 4 teaspoons dry Chinese mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil (or light sesame oil)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil (or peanut oil)
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
for salad:
  • 4 cups shredded roast chicken
  • 1 medium head napa cabbage, 1/4 inch julienne strips
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce, 1/4 inch julienne strips
  • 20 snow peas, 1/4 inch julienne strips
  • 6 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced (optional)
  • Fried wonton strips (optional)

1. Make vinaigrette. In a re-sealable jar or plastic container with secure lid, combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette and shake vigorously until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Alternatively, use a blender to mix the ingredients until smooth, adding the oil last. Add salt and pepper to adjust taste as needed.

2. Make salad. Julienne napa cabbage, romain lettuce, and raw snow peas. Combine vegetables with shredded chicken. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss until well-coated. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, scallions and wonton strips.

3. Optional Wonton Strips. Using 8 – 10 wonton wrappers, thinly slice them into 1/4 inch wide x 1 inch tall pieces. In hot canola oil, fry wonton strips for up to 60 seconds until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Recipe adapted from Wolfgang Puck.

Thanks Auntie S for a great night and for the delicious Beard Papa cream puffs! We should definitely take a break from our gym night routine and have yet another dinner at home soon!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. We had quite the busy weekend and I’ll look forward to sharing more about it soon.

Cheers!

Judy

Yamaimo Salad | Japanese Mountain Yam & LAKERS!!!

How about them LAKERS?!?

ALL season, I haven’t blogged a peep about a single game played by my favorite L.A. Lakers – – – a complete anomaly! Right?!? (My past Lakers posts can be found under the Category section “Lakers”, if you are interested.)

I admit that I was turned off by the lockout at the beginning of this season, coupled with the fact that Phil was no longer our fearless leader (I was slightly depressed), and we didn’t become 17-time Champions to tie the Celtics record by losing to the Mavericks in the 2010-2011 season (just a bit more depressed). Just when I started to watch a few games, Fish was traded. FISH who, despite his age, still had a few good 3-pointers and Lakers heart. I was crushed. Frankly, all of these factors put me in a Lakers funk.

But there’s something about the playoffs.

First of all, the Lakers made it to the playoffs. They MADE IT! At one point I seriously felt as though we weren’t going to make it to the playoffs and I would be forced to cheer for the other L.A. team – yep, the Clippers. I never blog about ’em for a reason. The Lakers are my L.A. team. They made it to the playoffs and even better, they managed to scramble to 3rd place in the Western Conference Standings. Yessssss!!!

Sunday night’s Round 1, Game 4 of Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals was… hopeful. We celebrated an early Mother’s Day dinner with my in-laws on Sunday night, but we made it home in time to watch the last quarter of the game. All I can say is, “thank you, Lakers” for making those shots when we needed it, for playing like you were AWAKE tonight, and for playing more like a team.

Thanks for the 92 – 88 win, Lakers. And thanks for getting us ahead in this series to 3 – 1!!! I’m looking forward to Tuesday night’s game in L.A.!

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Does it seem like this post isn’t really about cooking?

This post is more about chopping-up yamaimo (Japanese Mountain Yam) and garnishing it with katsuo bushi (dried bonito shavings) and drizzling it with some shoyu (soy sauce), ponzu (citrus soy sauce), or dashi shoyu (seasoned soy sauce).

Would you consider that cooking, or a salad that requires a recipe? Probably not, huh?

Although the weather is still on the cool side, drizzly at times, grey, and dreary in So. California and it doesn’t much feel like Spring, lately I’ve been craving more fresh vegetables served raw and simply prepared. My palate is ready for Spring and warmer days.

Once in a while, when I visit the Asian supermarket, I like to treat myself by purchasing a big piece of yamaimo, or Japanese Mountain Yam (it is also known in Japanese as nagaimo). It can be slightly on the pricey side but I’ve found that our local Korean supermarket often has the best prices.

Yamaimo is a root vegetable that I grew-up with and something my Mom made regularly for us. She often served it grated, with a hint of seasoning and we ate (more like drank) this as is, or sometimes poured over hot rice. The only way to describe this stuff is that it is slimy. I know, that doesn’t sound very appetizing but it’s really quite delicious. This type of grated preparation of yamaimo is called tororo (post on tororo available here).

Because of my fondness for yamaimo and tororo, I also enjoy yamakake soba (or udon). I like the noodles served both cold, with a dipping sauce, and hot, in a broth. (Post on cold hiyashi yamamake soba available here).

The simplest way that my Mom prepares yamaimo is by making it into a small side salad. Japanese cuisine is infamous for very small, literally three to five bite, side dishes and this is one such dish. I imagine my Mom found this salad useful for the end pieces of the yamaimo that were too difficult to grate.

Yamaimo Salad | Japanese Mountain Yam Salad

  • Small piece of yamaimo (nagaimo), peeled and sliced (approximately 2 1/2 cups)
  • katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes), for garnish
  • kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seeds), optional for garnish
  • shoyu (soy sauce), ponzu (citrus soy sauce), or dashi shoyu (seasoned soy sauce) for seasoning

1. Using a peeler, remove outer skin of the yamaimo, exposing the white inner flesh of the root.

2. Slice the yamaimo into small rectangular pieces.

3. Garnish with katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes) and optional kaiware (daikon sprouts). When you’re ready to eat, simply drizzle a little soy sauce, ponzu, or dashi shoyu and enjoy!

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Hope everyone had a good Cinco de Mayo / Children’s Day / Boy’s Day weekend!

On Saturday, we celebrated “Kodomo No Hi” or Boy’s Day along with my Dad’s birthday and early Mother’s Day.

I’ll share more about our Japanese Children’s Day | Boy’s Day next time!

GO LAKERS!!!

Judy

Chyuka Kyuri Tsukemono | Chinese Style Pickled Cucumber

This past weekend my brother-in-law came over and did a photo shoot for my blog. I’m not the best photographer, and for me, a camera falls under the category of “technology”, and therefore is a serious challenge.

I’ve been trying to take better pictures for my blog, and I can thankfully say that my photos have improved slightly since I started my blog two years ago (some of my earlier shots were quite awful), but I’ve found that photography, for me, is still a challenge and something that I would very much like to improve upon. The photo below is one that I took, and can proudly say is an improvement over some of my more embarrassing food shots.

Fortunately, the brother of my brother’s wife, is a great photographer. He’s really my brother’s brother-in-law, but I always refer to him as my brother-in-law. I was very lucky that Hideki agreed to shoot some of my food for me. Apparently, my brother and sister-in-law didn’t invite him to yesterday’s Dodger game because they found out he was shooting food for me. Oops, sorry Hideki!

In some of my upcoming posts, you’ll see his photography featured on my blog, and you’ll recognize his photos immediately, as those will look REALLY GREAT, as opposed to some of my photos that are hopefully starting to look a little better. I’ve featured a few of his photos here and there around my blog: Oshogatsu’12, Oshogatsu ’11 and Girl’s Day ’12. You can see his full portfolio on Flickr, Hideki Ueha.

Today, I share with you a Chinese style pickled cucumber that is very easy to make and it’s so simple that you’ll definitely want to give it a try. I love the flavor of fresh cucumber slices, and chyuka kyuri no tsukemono is one of my favorite ways to enjoy cucumber.

In Japanese cuisine, there are so many variations of kyuri no tsukemono, or pickled cucumbers, it will make your head spin. I’ve eaten countless variations that my Mom has made over the years and she’ll simply make a slight ingredient change from one batch to the next, such as adding yuzu, or konbu, or shoyu, or togarashi, or even sugarthe possibilities are endless.

One of my favorites, however, is a variation of my Mom’s shoyu kyuri no tsukemono (pickled cucumbers seasoned with soy sauce) that my Auntie Sumiko made for us at a BBQ sometime last year. She added goma abura (sesame oil) which makes the Japanese pickled cucumbers, in Japanese culture, “chyuka” or Chinese – style, hence the title of today’s post, “Chinese Style Pickled Cucumbers”.

Chyuka Kyuri Tsukemono | Chinese Style Pickled Cucumbers

  • 2 Japanese cucumbers (or other thin-skinned cucumber)
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried wagiri red chili pepper (sliced in small rings), optional

1. Slice cucumbers into large bite-sized pieces. Place in a sealable (Ziplock) bag or a plastic container that can be tightly, and securely sealed.

2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil and mix well. Add dried red chili pepper slices for some heat.

3. Pour the mixture over the cucumber pieces and shake the bag or tupperware until the cucumbers are well-coated.

4. Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours, periodically mixing the cucumbers to ensure the pieces are evenly coated. The meat of the cucumber will begin to absorb the color of the soy sauce, at which point, they should be ready to eat.

NOTE: If you keep your chyuka kyuri no tsukemono in the marinade for 4 – 5 days in the fridge, they will begin to shrivel and they will likely become very salty. I prefer to eat mine the same day that I make them, or within a day or two of making them at the most. You also have the option to discard the marinade once your chyuka kyuri no tsukemono reaches the desired flavor that suits your palate. This will prevent the cucumbers from becoming too salty.

Happy Monday!

Judy

Persimmon Salad with Pomegranate and Apples

The other day, Bebe E and I took a walk with a good friend of ours and the leaves on the maple trees were gorgeous shades of red, gold, orange and yellow. It was beautiful, and in my friend’s words, peaceful.

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Bebe E and I have been picking leaves whenever we have the chance. I’ve found recently picked leaves in the house, on the floor of our car, and the other day I found a little crushed leaf in her car seat. She’s also been giving leaves as little gifts, to Bachan, Jichan, Dada, Nene or myself. It’s been a joy to watch her pick leaves, and as a mother, I must admit that my love for my little one and  this warm-hearted season grew leaps and bounds yesterday as I watched Bebe E jump atop fallen leaves, crunching them with her little pink sneakers. Everything is new to her, and the joy she had on her face just gave me lots of little warm fuzzies.

We were very fortunate to visit our friend as her persimmon tree was at it’s peak! My in-laws’ persimmon tree (which is our annual source of Fuyu persimmons) already bore all it’s fruit for the season and I was a bit saddened as it’s bounty seemed less than previous years. We have only three left in our refrigerator from my mother-in-law’s tree, but our good friend replenished our persimmon supply! Thank you, my friend! Continue reading

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon, BBQ’s and lazy, hot summer days always seem to go hand-in-hand. Not this time! Fall is finally in full-swing in So. Cal. but last week I made watermelon salad and it was quite refreshing, even for a Fall evening.

Two weeks ago Bebe E and I went over to our good friends N & N’s home for a costume-making get together. I was originally invited over for my past creativity and craftiness with Halloween costumes, but the mastermind behind all of my costumes has always been M, yet another one of our childhood best girlfriends who is extremely talented and artistic. N made a fabulous spread for all of us who were invited to help with her son’s costume. She has always been, and always will be, a fabulous cook and hostess. As expected, I ended-up not helping with her son’s costume since I was otherwise preoccupied running after my own little one, and basically ended-up going over to simply eat great food and socialize. It was a great evening out. Our two other girlfriends, including super artist M, came through and made an amazing big truck costume for N’s son. Way to go, ladies (and Mr. N)!

One of the dishes that my girlfriend served at dinner was a watermelon salad. It was comprised of fresh watermelon, onions, mint and feta cheese. It was so delicious! Then, a few days after our get together, I went to visit my parents and… guess what?!? The watermelons my Dad had been growing the past few months were ripe and he cut one open for us to take home. Yay! It was sweet, with pink flesh, black seeds and best of all, it was organic and grown with love!

Every week when Bebe E and I would visit Bachan and Jichan (grandparents), we would excitedly look at the watermelons to see how much they’d grown from the previous week. I took pictures, of course.

Watermelon is probably Bebe E’s favorite fruit. She knows what watermelon looks like on the outside and she points at them at the supermarket and reaches out to them because she thinks it’s fun to touch them. Or maybe she’s trying to tell me that I need to open it for her so that she can eat some of it. :)  Continue reading