This Asian Sesame Chicken Salad is a light and refreshing gluten free meal packed with fresh vegetables and a tangy sweet sesame dressing. Perfect for hot summer nights.
I have what you might call a selective memory when it comes to the weather. Not more than 2 months ago, I was bemoaning Ohio’s brutal winter, railing against the snow and the oppressively cold, gray winter days. But last week we had one of those perfect days. It was 75 degrees with bright sunshine and just a hint of a breeze. The trees were swaying gently, the air was warm but not humid, and the flowers were just beginning to rise from their wintry graves. It was a day that demanded to be noticed, to be savored, to be enjoyed to the full.
The Mr. and I decided to pack our dinner and head to the park for a picnic. We laid out a blanket and munched on this Asian Sesame Chicken Salad, basking in the speckled sunlight streaming through the branches above us. It was perfect.
And somehow, in that moment, winter was forgotten. The sludge and snow, the whipping winds, the sunless days…they were but a distant memory. I decided right then and there I would never live anywhere other than my beloved Ohio.
Like I said, selective memory. Come talk to me again in August when it’s 90 degrees, my hair looks like I stuck my finger in an electric socket, and my sweaty thighs are sticking to every chair in site, and I’ll likely feel a little less fond of the place we call home. But right now? I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
Isn’t it interesting how food is wrapped up in our memories? For me, this Asian Chicken Salad will always be the picnic salad– the one we ate on the green and blue striped blanket under that regal old Maple tree. Food often accompanies our very favorite memories. I’ve read before that food smells can often trigger memories, both good and bad. If that’s the case, I hope the smell of sesame oil, fresh cut bell peppers, and cucumber will always remind me of that gorgeous spring night.
This salad was inspired by a dipping sauce I had at one of our favorite Thai restaurants, Basil. They have the absolute BEST crispy spring rolls, but what really sets them over the top is their sweet and tangy dipping sauce. I thought the sauce would compliment a salad perfectly so I went on the hunt for something similar.
Much to my surprise I stumbled on an Asian Sesame Chicken Salad at Iowa Girl Eats that looked surprisingly similar to what I had in mind. I used her recipe to make the sweet sesame and vinegar dressing, then adapted the toppings to fit my taste.
Crunchy and fresh, with lots of different flavors and textures, this salad is the ultimate summer meal. The peppers, cucumber, snap peas, and edamame make up the bulk of this Asian inspired salad that’s highlighted by juicy chicken breast, cilantro, and toasted sesame seeds. And the dressing…oh the dressing! It ties the whole thing up in a sweet and tangy sesame bow. <<That was weird, and I’m sorry.
Pack this salad for a picnic or spend the evening enjoying it on the back porch. Either way, it’s sure to be tied to the best summer memories.
- 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 4 medium chicken breasts
For the chicken marinade:
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce (use Tamari if gluten free)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1/2 green pepper, chopped
- 1 cup sugar snap peas
- 1 cup edamame
- 1 small cucumber, chopped in long strips
- 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
- Additional toasted sesame seeds (optional)
For the chicken: Place the chicken breasts in a plastic bag and add all the marinade ingredients. Tightly seal then shake the bag to fully cover the chicken. Marinade for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat with a small amount of sesame oil. Add the chicken and cook until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the skillet and allow to rest 5 minutes then slice.
For the dressing:
- Combine the rice vinegar and the sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool then place the vinegar mixture in a sealable jar then add oils, salt, and sesame seeds. Shake well to combine. You'll likely need to shake again just before serving.
- Divide the lettuce and veggies in a big bowl. Top with sliced chicken, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Serve the dressing on the side or toss everything together.
Recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats