Last Updated on September 17, 2023
Emmeline Zhao is the acclaimed chef of Silver Apricot, a New American-Chinese restaurant in Manhattan that has been featured in The New York Times’ Top 100. This chicken salad comes from her memories of a street vendor in Shanghai in the summer. “The a-yi (the vendor) working the cart would dump cold shredded chicken into a mixing bowl, and you would tell her which of at least two dozen condiments she had on your cart you wanted mixed into your salad,” Zhao says. Later, when her family returned to the States, she and her mother attempted to recreate the magic of those summer strolls through the market. “While it was never quite the same” as the salads she got from the cart, she says, they still managed to do a pretty good job — and make new memories in the process.
For the chicken:
- 1½ lb ButcherBox Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, defrosted and patted dry
- 1 tbsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- ½ cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 5 scallions roughly chopped
- 5 large cloves garlic
- 3 in. fresh ginger sliced thinly
For the dressing:
- 5 scallions sliced thinly
- 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp Chinese sesame paste or tahini
- ¼ cup Chinkiang rice or apple cider vinegar (you really can use most vinegars but white)
For the salad:
- 2 Persian cucumbers sliced thinly on the bias
- 1 stalk celery sliced thinly on the bias
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- Cilantro stems and leaves for serving
- Butter or lttle gem lettuces for serving
- Optional: Chili crisp or chili oil if you like spiciness
- Salt the chicken breasts all over, place in a bowl, cover withplastic and and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
- and up to 8 hours.
- When you’re ready to poach the chicken, place the wine, scallions, ginger, garlic and 1½ quarts of water (or enough water you think will submerge the chicken) in a pot. Bring to a boil, add the chicken, bring back to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Cover with lid and turn off heat. Let pot sit until chicken is totally opaque and registers 165º F in the middle of the thickest part of the breast, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, prepare a salted ice bath.Whisk 2 tablespoons salt with 2 quarts of water then add enough ice to create a chilly bath — this will shock the chicken to stop it from cooking anymore and quickly chill the meat so you can shred it easily.
- When the chicken is done cooking, transfer to the ice bath and swish around with tongs. Once cool, transfer (let excess water drip off) to a board or plate, shred into thin and long pieces along the grain (as you would withpulled pork) and set aside.
- If you haven’t yet, discard the ice water and dry the bowl thoroughly. Add all the dressing ingredients and whisk well to thoroughly combine. Add the shredded chicken, toss it in the dressing to coat then add the cucumber or celery (or both), cilantro and sesame seeds. Toss gently to combine.
- Place the lettuce leaf cups on serving plates, top with the chicken salad and, if desired, a drizzle of chile crispor chili oil.