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Chicken and Vegetable Salad with Chinese Sesame Sauce Recipe

Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Total Time: Under 1 Hour
Skill Level: Moderate
Cost: Moderate
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Chicken and Vegetable Salad with Chinese Sesame Sauce

Photo by: Mark Shapiro

This ever-popular salad can serve as an appetizer, a shared course in an Asian meal or a main course for lunch or a light dinner. Doubled or tripled in quantity, it also makes an excellent buffet dish. With careful cutting and arranging of the vegetables and garnishes, an attractive and lively presentation can grace any table.

The recipe here calls for poached chicken breast, but grilled or even cold leftover roasted chicken will work well. For a tastier and more economical poached chicken breast, purchase a bone-in breast with the skin. The bones and the skin will help the chicken to retain flavor while poaching and can be removed for the salad. The resulting poaching liquid can also be used as a light chicken broth in other dishes.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4


For the sesame sauce:

  • 1 ½ tsp (7 ml) hot mustard powder
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) sesame paste or peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) sesame oil (or 2 tbsp (25 ml) if using peanut butter)
  • 4 tsp (20 ml) vinegar, preferably rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) soya sauce
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) minced garlic
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp (2 ml) fish sauce (optional)
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) white pepper
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) salt

For the salad:

  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) salt
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 4 slices ginger root
  • 2 green onions; 1 whole, 1 finely sliced
  • 1 stalk coriander (cilantro) (optional)
  • 1 chicken breast (with bones and skin)
  • Napa cabbage or lettuce leaves (3 or 4), cut into large shred
  • 1 2-inch (5 cm) daikon radish or 6 red radishes, sliced
  • 1 3-inch (7.5 cm) piece cucumber, sliced
  • 1 green finger chili, sliced into rings
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) toasted white sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • 1 tsp (5 ml)  toasted black sesame seeds for garnish (optional)


1. Prepare the sauce: Add enough cold water to the mustard powder to make a thin paste; let stand 10 minutes. In a food processor combine mustard paste, sesame paste, sesame oil, vinegar, soya sauce, garlic, sugar, fish sauce (if using), pepper and salt; purée until smooth. Add enough cold water to make a thick but pourable sauce. (The sauce can be refrigerated for 5 days; bring to room temperature before using).

2. Bring 3 cups (750 ml) water and salt to a boil. Blanch celery 30 seconds; remove, rinse in cold water, cut diagonally into bite-size pieces and set aside. Add peppercorns, ginger, whole green onion and coriander, if using, to the boiling water. Add chicken breast, skin-side up; when water returns to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through but still moist. Remove from water; cool. Strain liquid and save for use as a light stock. Remove and discard skin and bones; shred chicken meat or slice thinly.

3. Line serving platter with Napa cabbage leaves; cover with radish and cucumber, then celery and chicken. Drizzle sauce in lines over the salad. Sprinkle with chili, red pepper, coriander and, if desired, sesame seeds.


Some northern Chinese and, especially, Koreans prefer a sauce with a pronounced mustard taste and sinus-clearing piquancy. For this, make sure you use hot English mustard powder. Or, for the best and hottest mustard powder, buy the Korean product at Korean grocers. Avoid Chinese mustard powder, as it is inferior to the English variety. Increase the mustard to 1 tbsp (15 ml).

Wasabi, Japanese green horseradish, can also replace the hot mustard. Use 2 tsp (10 ml) powdered wasabi and add enough cold water to make a thick paste; let it sit covered 10 minutes before adding to the sauce.

If you ever see fresh radish sprouts at your grocers, buy them for this salad. The attractive sprouts are absolutely delicious and have the tangy flavor of radish. Onion sprouts can replace the green onion in the salad. Chopped pickled young ginger also makes for a very nice garnish.


Chinese sesame paste is made from roasted white sesame seeds and is readily available at Chinese grocers. The Japanese product is generally of superior quality but 4 or 5 times the cost. If neither is available, you can use sesame tahini, a Middle Eastern sesame paste; lighter in color and taste than oriental varieties, it is widely available. If you cannot get any of the above, use peanut butter, preferably one without any added ingredients, and augment it with a little more sesame oil. Peanut sauces are also common in many parts of China, so do not shy away from peanut butter as a substitute for sesame paste.

© 1997 Andrew Chase

Editor's Note

Nutritional information is based on 4 servings.


Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

248kcal (12%)
219mg (22%)
27mg (46%)
31mcg RAE (1%)
28mg (9%)
577mg (24%)
3g (15%)
17g (26%)
4mg (25%)

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