Bang Bang Chicken Noodle Salad

Early Summer 2012
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food and drink

BY: Marilyn Bentz-Crowley

Traditionally this Szechaun street food uses poached chicken—but grilled chicken adds extra flavour. Pounding the cooked breast with a rolling pin helps in shredding, thus “bang bang!” This light fresh salad is a delicious hot-day dinner. Or serve it at a barbecue buffet with a pitcher of the peanut sauce on the side.

PEANUT SAUCE
1 cup (250 mL) chunky or smooth peanut butter, natural peanut-only variety
¼ cup (60 mL) rice-wine vinegar (plain, not seasoned) or white-wine vinegar
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 mL) crushed hot chili flakes
2 tbsp (30 mL) finely grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup (80 mL) soy or tamari sauce
1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) very finely minced coriander root (if available)
½ cup (125 mL) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh coriander leaves

SALAD
3 large chicken breasts
1 tsp (5 mL) peanut oil
Salt
13 oz (400 g) vermicelli noodles or capellini pasta
½ English cucumber
1 to 2 large carrots, peeled
2 baby bok choy
2 green onions
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped
fresh mint (optional)
¼ cup (60 mL) very coarsely chopped
fresh coriander leaves

1 Stir peanut butter with vinegar, garlic, sugar, 1 tsp (5 mL) chili flakes, ginger, soy sauce and coriander root, if available. Stir in water and coriander leaves. Cover and let mellow at room temperature for an hour. Then taste; add more chili, if needed. Thin by stirring in tablespoons of additional water, 1 at a time until sauce can be drizzled. (Sauce can be covered and refrigerated for a week. Bring to room temperature; thin with water as needed.)

2 Preheat barbecue to medium to medium high. Open chicken breasts like a book by flipping tenderloin to the side (if present). Lightly rub chicken with oil; season with several sprinkles of salt on each side. Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through but not overcooked and dry. (Tip: cut into thickest part of breasts to check for doneness.) Cool.

3 Liberally pour boiling water over rice noodles in a bowl. Let soak for 5 minutes or until tender. Or if using capellini pasta, break in half and cook in boiling salted water according to package directions, usually 3 to 5 minutes or until al dente. Rinse noodles or pasta under cold tap water; drain. (If making ahead, thoroughly toss with an extra drizzle of peanut oil, cover and refrigerate.)

4 Place chicken between plastic wrap; lightly pound with a mallet or rolling pin to start shredding. Then pull apart into bite-size pieces; there should be about 3 cups (750 mL). 5 Finely julienne cucumber and carrot. Thinly slice bok choy leaves including ribs; diagonally cut green onions. There should be about 6 cups (1.5 L) of cut vegetables. Toss vegetables with mint to mix. (If making ahead, cover chicken and vegetables separately and refrigerate for up to half a day.)

6 To serve, divide noodles among cool serving dishes. Layer with julienned vegetables and chicken. Drizzle with some of peanut sauce; garnish with coarsely chopped coriander. Pass remaining peanut sauce at table.

Serves 4 to 6 as a light entrée