This one is special. 

Every few years my Father would discover a food that he loved, which he would proceed to eat every night for years. I wish that were an exaggeration. In the 80's he loved half smokes, a food native to Washington, DC. Later, he turned to bran muffins: wonderful smelling but absolutely revolting things that evolved into nothing more than pucks of bran and blueberries that were then baked until rock hard. Pasta salad came in the mid to late 90's. But in the early part of that decade, there was Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad. 

Rumor has it that the recipe came from a chef who served this dish to my Father. So unlike the abomination that is pasta salad, this recipe is actually quite tasty. Simple, nutritious, and balanced, you would be hard-pressed to find much that was unappealing.* But try eating it every night for several years. Even now I can't think of it without being overpowered by the cloying odor of sesame oil, soy sauce, and Tiger sauce. 

Several photocopies of this recipe were put in the box by my Father. I suppose he didn't want to lose this gem. 

* Scribal Marginalia:  While it is true that the original form of this dish is hinted at by the components below, its final form developed as a result of the Law of Vegetable Degradation which causes all our father's food to turn into broccoli over time.  Although trace amounts of oil remained, the Chinese Chicken Salad eventually reduced itself to a tupperware tub of giant, uncut leaves of romaine with a few "Chinese noodles" massed in one clump underneath. This reduction to vegetable and pasta gave way to his famous Pasta Salad. Some researchers argue that Chinese Chicken Salad and Pasta Salad represent an unbroken evolution toward the pile of unadorned, raw broccoli that the Pasta Salad eventually became. 

Chinese chicken (or shrimp) salad
10 oz Chinese noodles
1 or 2 boneless chicken breasts, boiled and cooled and shredded (shrimp might be good too.)
2 or so lb romain, cut into thin strips 
scallions chopped
3 celery sticks chopped
red pepper flakes
sesame oil -- about 1/4 cup
sweetened rice wine vinegar -- about 1/4 cup
soy sauce -- about 1/8 cup
fresh snow peas

Cook noodles as directed on package, separating them while cooking. Wash and cool then under cold water tap. Toss with a tablespoon or so sesame oil, add scallions, celery, red pepper, and chicken and put in refrigerator (unless, of course, you want to eat the salad right away). 

Mix sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce and pour over noodle mixture. Toss with romain. Garnish with snow peas. 

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    August 2012


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