Summer is heating up in Japan, and this salad is the perfect way to avoid slaving over a hot stove! It tastes fresh and summer-y, satisfying enough to be a light meal in itself, or as a side with rice and grilled meat. It’s a great way to use leftover rotisserie chicken, and the Tangy Soy-Lemon Dressing also turns asparagus, snap peas, or green beans into an instant side dish for Tasty Simmered Ginger Pork or Yakitori Chicken Mini-Burgers. (This dressing is the single most delicious thing I learned to make in Japan. Everybody—even people who “don’t like Japanese food”—love it and ask for seconds.)
Japanese Chicken Salad with Tangy Soy-Lemon Dressing
1-2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded into bite-sized pieces (optional)
2-3 handfuls mixed salad greens, torn into bite-sized pieces
3-4 green onions, chopped (including green parts)
1 avocado, diced
2 T. (30g) cilantro leaves
2-3 T. (30-45g) cashews, chopped
Put all the ingredients in a big salad bowl, drizzle with Soy-Lemon Dressing and toss.
Tangy Soy-Lemon Dressing
4 t. (20ml) soy sauce
2 T. (30ml) lemon juice
1 t. (5g) dry mustard
1 t. (5g) salt
2 t. (10g) sugar
2 t. (10g) grated lemon peel (one lemon)
2 t. (10ml) toasted sesame oil (the brown kind, not the pale yellow kind)
1/2 c. (120ml) salad oil (a flavorless variety, like canola oil)
Grate lemon peel, then squeeze juice and strain out the pulp. Mix lemon juice and soy sauce in dressing bottle, then add mustard, salt and sugar. Shake well, so there are no lumps. Add sesame oil, salad oil and lemon peel. Shake well before pouring.
A little of this dressing goes a long way—try putting on less than you think it needs, toss for 60 seconds, then taste a leaf and add more if it’s not tasty enough. (I was amazed how much flavor this dressing adds if I toss the salad longer than my usual lackadaisical ten seconds.)
This dressing is also super delicious on vegetables! It goes really well with asparagus, sugar snap peas, and green beans. If I need a vegetable dish fast, I trim the raw veggies, quick-boil them in salted water (15-30 seconds for asparagus and snap peas, 2-3 minutes for green beans), drain them and instantly throw them in a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking more. Squirt on a little dressing and done.
Salad prep hack from my friend who works at a Tokyo restaurant
I used to hate making salads until I learned this!
Here’s how to resurrect wilty lettuce and painlessly get rid of any bugs (the bane of organic produce)
Tear up your greens into the salad spinner,* then put it in the sink and fill it generously with cold water. Swish the greens with both hands like a washing machine for ten seconds. Pull out the basket and dump the dirty water. Do it again if the water is really dirty. Then put in more cold water, just enough to float the greens a little. (If your lettuce is more than a little wilted, you can stir in a magical half teaspoon of salt.) Stick the spinner in the fridge while you cut up the rest of the ingredients. (This will drown any remaining bugs.) Drain, rinse again (if you used salt) and spin. Voila! Five star restaurant salad!
*If you don’t have a salad spinner, put your greens in a colander that fits inside a big bowl or pot (or you can use your sink and fill it with water).
If you love Japan, you might enjoy The Last Tea Bowl Thief too
“This book is an absolutely delicious read.” —Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird