This Japanese chicken salad is made with a perfectly tender and juicy chicken breast served over fresh salad vegetables, boiled eggs and my special homemade Japanese dressing. It's extremely easy to make a packed with nutrients!
Japanese Chicken Salad?
When it comes to Japanese chicken salad, I have to be honest and say that it doesn't really exist. Sure, there are tonnes of chicken dishes that we eat with salad, but the term "chicken salad" is not really used in Japan.
However, today I will be showing you how to make a Japanese style chicken salad specifically with an ingredient we call "salad chicken". It's simple, nutritious and easy to make too!
What is "Salad Chicken"?
Salad chicken (サラダチキン) is simply skinless chicken breast that has been boiled or steamed with distinctive seasonings.
Chicken breast is actually the cheapest and least popular part of the chicken Japan. This is because fatty meat is of course, juicier and tastier whereas chicken breast has a reputation of being dry or lacking in flavour.
In recent years, Japanese people have been becoming more health conscious. New gyms have been popping up all over the country and health foods rich in protein are also growing in popularity.
Salad chicken is in low calories, high in protein dish and can be used in a variety of recipes. You can find it in any Japanese convenience store or supermarket and it comes in various flavours.
It's great for a quick meal or snack and it's actually extremely easy to make at home too!
What vegetables to use
There's no real rule for what vegetables to use with salad chicken and it's easy to customize. I personally use:
- Steamed broccoli
- Boiled eggs
- Mini tomatoes
- Mixed leaf lettuce
You could also use things like cucumber, avocado, cabbage etc.
Tips and tricks to make the juiciest salad chicken
As chicken breast has a reputation for being dry, one of the most important elements of salad chicken is maintaining the moisture. Here are a few tips and tricks I use to ensure the chicken breast stays moist and tender!
You might think that piercing the chicken would make moisture seep out, but in this case, it helps tenderise the meat and also allows it to absorb the condiments and steam. Piercing the chicken helps make it juicy and lightly flavoured all the way through.
Sake helps tenderise meat as well as neutralise any odors, that's why it's commonly used in Japanese marinades!
If you can't find sake, substitute with sherry or dry white wine.
I use a thin coating of corn starch to improve the texture of the chicken. This mimics the effect of "velveting", a Chinese technique where meat is marinated in wine, egg and corn starch to create a protective layer.
Whether the meat is fried, deep fried or steamed, velveting is a great technique for helping meat retain its moisture and becoming extra soft.
While you can boil or steam salad chicken, but the easiest way to cook is actually using a microwave!
The microwave will not only cook the chicken from the inside out, but also boil the condiments and steam the outside of the meat. It's also quick and convenient.
Timing varies depending on the size of your chicken, but for a 250-300g piece of chicken breast (just over ½ lb) I microwave for 2 minutes on each side at 600W. It seems short, but as I mentioned before, it's important not to overcook the breast.
One of the most important steps is allowing the chicken to rest in the steam.
Not only does this step make the chicken extra juicy and succulent, but it also cooks it further in the residual heat. If you skip this step, there's a chance your chicken might not be fully cooked!
Patience is pretty important here so don't be tempted to skip the resting time!
Japanese style "Wafu" Dressing
Japanese style is known as "wafu" (和風) and our salad dressings usually contain typical condiments used in every day cooking such as soy sauce, mirin, miso paste etc. It's also common to add fragrant ingredients such as garlic or ginger to give them more of a kick. Japanese dressings don't use herbs so much.
In my wafu dressing, I use the following ingredients:
- Soy sauce
- Sesame seeds
- Toasted sesame oil
- Olive oil
- Garlic paste
- Lemon juice
- White pepper
Because mirin contains alcohol, I boil the dressing in a saucepan for a few minutes. I also dissolve the sugar during this time.
For extra depth of flavour, I also like to use the leftover juices from the cooked chicken. There's no waste in this recipe!