In previous 'Recipe Road Test' articles, I have tried to recreate dishes based on the written instructions of those more experienced at recipe writing than I. I've been trying to learn what makes a good recipe. Obviously, taste is the most important criterion; if it don't taste good, it's never going to be eaten the first time, let alone be cooked the second! However, other important factors are how easy the dish is to make overall and how much time it takes. Another consideration is how enticing and attractive the dish looks, because after all, we eat with our eyes first.
This dish makes salad seem like a treasure hunt, with its varied vibrant colours. Although the dressing is quite calorific, it is indecently tasty, and given the rest of the dish's low fat count, can be forgiven.
We made this dish having had roast chicken the day before. It is a completely excellent way of using up leftover cooked chicken. Chicken sandwiches are all well and good, but to essentially get a 'free dinner' out of your Sunday roast seems like getting a wonderful present.
Ching-He Huang's recipe comes from her first book, China Modern. Her concept for the book is to concentrate on the different influences shaping contemporary Chinese food; ethnically Chinese living in Europe or America are influenced by Western flavours and techniques, hence broadening the cuisine. China's neighbours add their own special touches such as different and diverse spices or more tropical ingredients. Her recipe is set out verbatim below, with the road test to follow.
Nutty Chicken Noodle Salad
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter
400g dried whole-wheat flour noodles
toasted sesame oil for dressing
½ cucumber, cored and cut into long strips
1 large carrots, cut into long strips
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into long strips
1 mango, stoned and cut into long strips
1 spring onion, cut into long strips
350g cooked skinless chicken breast, shredded
For the peanut dressing:
6 tbsp olive
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp brown sugar
juice of 1 lemon
Handful of chopped roasted peanuts (optional)
Preparation time: 10 mins plus refridgerating
Cooking time: 30 mins
- Cook the noodles according to the pack instructions, then drain and rinse in cold water. Drizzle with a few dashes of sesame oil to keep them from sticking together. Place on a plate and cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge whilst you slice and prepare the rest.
- In serving bowls, place equal amounts of cooked noodles. Then add layers of cucumber strips, carrot strips, yellow pepper, mango slices, spring onion strips and shredded chicken. Cover with clingfilm and refridgerate for 30 minutes. This salad tastes refreshing when cold so refridgeration is a must.
- When ready to serve, whizz all the dressing ingredients in a blender and pour a generous amount over the salad. For an even nuttier flavour and added crunch, sprinkle some chopped roasted peanuts over the top. Enjoy with chilled Chinese beer.
I started off by cooking my noodles. Having not had the opportunity to visit my local Chinese supermarket, I had to use Waitrose's own brand noodles.
They took 4 minutes to cook, and I admit I was initially sceptical, but they had enough springiness to work in this dish.
Then it was on to stripping the chicken. I should have done this the night before, and it would have saved me a lot of time. It would also have saved me a lot of space in my fridge. Still, after cooking the Sunday lunch with Him Indoors (he is a whizz at roast dinners) and clearing up the kitchen afterwards, I had had enough, and just wrapped the remaining whole chicken with foil and slung it in the fridge.
The most time consuming part of this dish is cutting all the juliennes of vegetables and fruit. Ching is a dab hand with a cleaver, having seen her on TV, and perhaps she is able to get everything prepped in 10 minutes, but I would say that it is going to take us average joes a lot longer. But looking at the colours in the bowl together, I had the feeling that this was going to be a dish where the effort would be well worth it.
The dressing involves a lot of ingredients, and seems intimidating. However, if you have Chinese or Thai food at home, the chances are you have most of these ingredients knocking around at home. The rice vinegar was something I had in for making potsticker dipping sauce, but it may be something you need to buy in especially. I used to hate the hassle of preparing ginger; peeling with a knife, grating and hoping not to lose my fingertips, but it really adds something to Indian and Chinese food, so I have gotten over my animosity. Sadly, Him Indoors ate the pack of salted peanuts I'd bought for the topping on the Saturday night, so I couldn't top the dish as Ching suggested. However I did have a jar of Chinese fried onions bought on my last trip to See Woo, so they had to do. And there you have the dish:
The verdict: this dish took much longer to prepare that I expected. If you are using leftover cooked chicken, however, you could still manage to have this as a midweek supper, because you would not need 30 minutes cooking time. This is a good 'in at 7, dinner at 8' sort of evening meal. I thought it looked very appetising in the dish. As I said from the outset, the real yardstick of a good recipe is taste, and this has it in bucketloads! The dressing seems overly thick and cloying when you mix it up, but it really works over the light cucumber, peppers and mango. It coats the chicken and noodles, transforming them from bland to flavourful. My only regret is that there wasn't any left over for taking into work the following day! This will be made again, the next time we plan to have roast chicken on a Sunday. Score!
Ching herself has an alternative version to this recipe, her own version of 'Bang Bang Chicken' which she cooked on Market Kitchen and is a little simpler than this recipe: http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/611266
Another possible alternative to this recipe, the dressing for which would certainly be lower in calorific value, might be Allegra McEvedy's Bang Bang Chicken, to be found at: