Shredded chicken, sesame and noodle salad recipe

Posted on August 16, 2012

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It’s not ground breaking news to report that we (as a nation) eat a lot of chicken. In 2011, the ABC reported that we eat an average of 37kg of chicken per annum. This figure puts chicken ahead of beef and lamb as our preferred protein. And if the forecasts are right, our taste for chicken will only increase. It’s pretty understandable why. Red meat has copped a bit of flack in the media in the past decade for increasing cholesterol and potentially increasing the risk of cancers and the like. White meat became the ‘safer’ or ‘healthier’ meat to consume. And let’s face it, chicken is pretty versatile. It goes well with sweet and savory flavours. It’s good in soup, curries, pies, on the barbie, with noodles or as a roast. You can’t really go wrong.

Chicken breast is particularly popular. I don’t really have the hard stats to back up this claim, but I’m going by the fact that chicken breast is the most expensive part of the chicken you can buy. If you’ve got to pay a premium for it, it must be in demand. That logic works right? It’s also considered one of the leanest sources of protein (excluding fish), so quite rightly, it’s highly favoured by those watching their weight as well.

In spite of this, I am not very fond of chicken breast. Chicken I like. But usually I would buy a whole chook, or the maryland or to a lesser extent, thigh fillets. The breast is not all that appealing. It’s a bit bland, and the margin of error for cooking it correctly is quite small. 30 seconds overcooked and it can be rendered dry and tasteless.

Anyhow, it was one of those rare occasions when I had a chicken breast sitting in my fridge waiting to be used. My immediate log of recipes doesn’t include anything that utilises that cut, so it called for a little creativity on my part. I decided to do a noodle salad since salads are the connection I make with chicken breast. The noodles are added because I love carbs and never feel completely sated unless my meal contains some.

The idea for this chicken, noodle and sesame combination stems from a sesame ‘dan dan’ noodles I’d recently had at Taiwan Cafe (273 Swanston Street, Melbourne VIC).

Sesame paste can be purchased at selected Asian grocers. There are usually quite a few brands on offer, so take the time to examine the ingredient list. Some brands won’t be pure sesame and may include filler ingredients such as soy. I prefer the ones that are made from 100% sesame seeds; I like being able to control the flavour and seasoning.

Bean thread noodles were used for this dish, but it could be readily substituted with rice noodles. I wouldn’t suggest egg noodles though, the flavour wouldn’t be quite right and it would add a bit too much bulk to the salad. Remember texture is very important in salads, so the toasted sesame seeds and crushed peanuts are quite important finishing touches.

RECIPE – Shredded chicken, sesame and noodle salad (serves up to 4 as a main or up to 8 as a starter)

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 320g of bean thread noodles
  • 200g bean shoots
  • 400g cucumber shredded
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds toasted
  • salt for seasoning
  • crushed roasted peanuts and chopped spring onions for garinshing

Sesame dressing:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of pure sesame paste
  • 1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • at least 1/4 cup of water, and more as needed

Method:

  1. To poach chicken, fill a medium sized saucepan with ~1.5L of water (or whatever will be enough to fully submerge the chicken breast) and bring to boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce to a low simmer and gently place chicken into water. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutues. After 15 minutes, turn heat off and leave chicken in water, allowing it to gently cook through in the warm water for another 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. This method of cooking will ensure your chicken breast is cooked while staying juicy and tender. (You could fancy it up by poaching the chicken in a master stock if you have it handy – this will be the subject of a future post!)
  2. While the chicken is cooking, place bean thread noodles in a bowl of boiling water for ~5 minutes. Drain.
  3. If like me, you have a problem with raw bean shoots (I don’t like the smell), toss bean shoots in a hot wok and 1/2 tablespoon of oil for a few minutes to wilt. Otherwise, you can skip this step.
  4. To toast sesame seeds, place in a small pan and use low to medium heat. Continually shake the pan around and as soon as you see the sesame seeds turn blond, turn off the heat. The residual heat in the pan will continue to lightly toast the seeds without burning them. Reserve.
  5. When the chicken is cool enough to touch, using your hands or forks if you prefer, shred the chicken. If you poached the chicken in plain water, season chicken with salt and pepper.
  6. To make dressing, mix all ingredients (bar the water) together. Once you get a thick paste, gently mix in a little water at a time until you achieve a desirable consistency. Check seasoning for taste.
  7. To serve, arrange noodles, bean shoots, shredded cucumber and shredded chicken in bowl (either in individual serves or in a larger salad bowl). Spoon on a generous amount of sesame dressing and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, crushed peanuts and spring onions.

I like letting people toss the salad around themselves. The more people feel that they are involved in the food preparation process, the more they seem to enjoy the meal. This is true of kids and adults in my experience. My fully grown guinea pigs were no exception; they rather enjoyed it.

It makes for a light and satisfying meal with simple but bold flavours. The sesame paste is really fragrant and pairs nicely with the fresher flavours of the cucumber and bean shoots. This dish will only become more appealing as we are coming into warmer weather and looking to shed our taste for hearty winter meals. It would work well as a lunch, dinner or even as a starter.

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