hawaiian chicken salad

Crunchy, sweet & light.  The perfect addition to your barbecue spread.  This recipe has been passed around my family and circle of friends for decades.  I wish I could give proper credit to the person who first shared it with me.  It was way back in what seems to be a different lifetime.  We had recently settled into what turned out to be our lifelong home in a new neighborhood of very young families.  We all had little ones with so much in common.  We enjoyed many potluck gatherings, especially the backyard variety during the warm months.  It was at one of those parties, that we were introduced to this salad.  It was an instant hit.

The couple that brought it had just moved into the house up the street.  He was in the military …the Navy, if my memory is correct.  His wife was Hawaiian and this was one of her family’s recipes.  That was it.  The official name of that salad was cast in stone.  I’ve updated it a bit along the way, but it has withstood the test of time.

It’s a good idea to get the dressing mixed up early.  The longer it hangs out in the jar, the better the flavor.  And you probably won’t use all of it at one time, especially if you prefer not to have too much dressing on your salad.  It will keep for several weeks in your fridge …you may even decide to enjoy a repeat performance in a week or so.

Instead of croutons, this calls for crispy chow mein noodles.  Originally, we used the packaged type and that will work.  But …if you want to take this to the next level, make your own wonton chips.  They are so superior and delicious crumbled over your salad.  Most definitely worth the effort.

The oil you use for frying is your choice.  I highly recommend using unrefined coconut oil for this.  Aside from the suggested health benefits, the addition of slight coconut flavor is delicious.  Especially when enjoyed with the hawaiian dressing.  A word or two of caution …these guys are done very quickly.  By that I mean it could take under one minute (depending on the temperature of the oil) so keep a close watch on them.  The moment the edges just begin to darken, flip them over and remove from pan with 10 seconds.

The wonton chips are broken up and added to the salad for unbelievable flavor and crunch.  Hold on to any that are leftover and serve them with some hummus or your favorite dip.

I have found that if grilled chicken breast is used, the smoky flavor adds another layer of deliciousness.  But, don’t think that it’s mandatory.  For years, I would cook up some chicken breasts in seasoned broth and use that.  I’ve even tried using shredded rotisserie chicken breast.  If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, boiled or grilled shrimp is a good choice.

Originally, it was suggested that the cucumber be peeled before slicing.  I think it’s more appealing to leave the skin on.  Sometimes though, the skin may be a bit tough.  The trick is to run a fork down every side of the whole cucumber.  Use a bit of pressure so that the fork creates “stripes” in the skin.  You’ll find that the skin seems to be more tender and the visual adds more interest to the finished dish.

 Here’s the best way to serve this …have the greens and chicken combined in a large serving bowl.  Keep the dressing and wonton chips off to the side with the individual salad bowls.  Each person can grab the tongs, build their own salad and enjoy.  If it is all combined in advance, the lettuce and chips tend to get soggy.

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hawaiian chicken salad

Crunchy, sweet & light.  A sure crowd-pleaser

Servings 8 - 10 servings

Ingredients

HAWAIIAN DRESSING

  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

WONTON CHIPS

  • 1 1/2 cups peanut or coconut oil
  • 6 ounces wonton wraps, cut in 3/4-inch strips
  • coarse kosher salt for seasoning

SALAD

  • 3 hearts of romaine, cut in bite-sized pieces (approximately 28 ounces)
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup scallion, sliced (green part only)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 3 grilled chicken breasts, cut in bit-sized pieces (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

Instructions

HAWAIIAN DRESSING

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl or large measuring cup.  Using a whisk, mix well to emulsify.  Transfer to a glass cruet or jar.  Place in refrigerator until ready to use.  

  2. Before each use, shake well to blend ingredients.  Will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

WONTON CHIPS

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Line a baking sheet with paper toweling and set aside.

  2. When oil is hot, place wonton strips in pan, in a single layer, so that they are not touching.  As soon as edges just begin to darken, quickly flip over with tongs.  Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer them to the lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt.  Repeat in batches until done.

  3. Once cooled, store chips in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

  4. NOTE:  Keep a close watch on these ...they will be done in a very short time.  Depending on the temperature of the oil, the total cooking time could be under one minute.

SALAD

  1. Place all salad ingredients in a large serving bowl.  Toss well to combine.  Can be covered and placed in refrigerator early in the day.  When ready to serve, add the desired amount of dressing and mix well.  Top with crumbled wonton chips.

  2. NOTE:  If salad will not be eaten immediately, serve with the dressing and chips on the side to ensure maximum crispiness.

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