Shanghainese-Inspired Pulled Chicken Salad

Last Updated on December 14, 2023

Chicken salad gets a serious upgrade with this recipe, inspired by a street vendor in Shanghai.

“The a-yi [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 her cart you wanted mixed into your salad,” says Emmeline Zhao, acclaimed chef of Silver Apricot, a New American-Chinese restaurant in New York City that’s been featured in the New York Times Top 100.

Later, when chef Zhao’s 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 created this very special recipe, and made new memories in the process.

Shanghainese-Inspired Pulled Chicken Salad

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4


For the chicken:

  • 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
  • 1 3-inch piece fresh ginger thinly sliced

For the dressing:

  • 5 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 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 thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 rib celery thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Cilantro stems and leaves for serving
  • Butter or lttle gem lettuces for serving
  • Chili crisp or chili oil optional


  • Salt the chicken breasts all over, place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 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 water (or or more if needed to submerge the chicken) in a pot. Bring to a boil, add the chicken, bring back to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and turn off the heat. Let the pot sit until the chicken is opaque and cooked through (an instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part should read 165ºF), 12 to 15 minutes.
  • While the chicken is cooking, prepare a salted ice bath. Whisk 2 tablespoons salt with 2 quarts water, then add enough ice to create a chilly bath; this will shock the chicken to stop it from cooking and quickly chill the meat so you can shred it easily.
  • When the chicken is done, transfer it to the ice bath and swish around with tongs. Once cool, transfer to a board or plate (let any excess water drip off) and shred into thin, long pieces along the grain (as you would with pulled pork).
  • Discard the ice water and dry the bowl thoroughly. Add all the dressing ingredients to the bowl and whisk well to thoroughly combine. Add the shredded chicken, toss it in the dressing to coat, then add the cucumber, celery, cilantro and sesame seeds. Toss gently to combine.
  • Place the lettuce leaf cups on serving plates and top with the chicken salad. Drizzle with chili crisp or chili oil, if desired, and serve.
Share on Pinterest!Pin at @Butcher_Box!