I’m sure everyone has that go to dish that they order at a particular restaurant. A certain burger, a great sandwich, an awesome salad. Well, at Panera Bread my favorite thing to order is their Asian Chicken Salad. I love the combination of crunchy romaine, fresh chopped cilantro, crunchy almonds and wonton strips, and seasoned chicken. One of the best parts of that salad is the sweet vinegar dressing that compliments all the ingredients so well. It was the first post labor meal I had my husband run out and grab and bring back to the hospital right after our first baby girl was born almost 10 years ago. After having this salad a few times, I began my hunt to try to find a recipe. Most copycat recipes use artificial sweetener in the dressing to try to emulate the taste of Panera’s. Since I’m not a fan of artificial sweetener’s mine is made with regular sugar. I think next time I make it, I will experiment with using honey to replace the sugar to see how that works. I’ve worked on the flavors of the dressing for a while now and I think this is pretty close to Panera’s flavor, but it is not as thick as their dressing. After a really gruesome workout this morning, coming home and making this salad for myself hit the spot. And the best part is I can randomly shout out, “Oh, this is so good!” as I’m eating the salad since I made it myself at home. And when I’m down to just the remaining dressing and tag along sesame seeds in the bottom of my salad bowl and I’m licking it clean getting dressing on my nose, no other restaurant guests are looking at me funny since I’m in the comfort of my own home. My family is used to my enthusiasm for good food so they are quite accustomed to me being vocal about how much I love a food. They also don’t care if I really “clean” my plate! No need to pre rinse before going into the dishwasher!
This salad takes a little prep work, but if you plan out your week’s meals, it is much easier. The recipe below is for one serving. It is a large salad so you could divide it into two for two people or just double the recipe for more servings. The recipe calls for half a chicken breast cooked. I just used leftover chicken from taco night a few nights ago. I made sure to save enough for a couple of these salads to make the prep work easier. The chicken was just seasoned with Tajin Clasico Seasoning which is a combination of chili peppers and a hint of lime. I find it in the Hispanic food section at the grocery store. You could just season the chicken with salt and pepper or a little garlic powder but I think the Tajin works well. Also the recipe for the dressing below makes a lot. So if you have a jar or squeeze bottle to keep the remaining dressing in, then it will be even quicker to whip up this salad the next time. The dressing will keep in your fridge for a few months and is good on other salads or asian dishes as well.
Asian Chicken Salad
Enough for one large or 2 small salads.
2 C chopped romaine lettuce
2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro – I use leaves and stalks.
1/2 stalk of green onion chopped. I use mostly the top half or the green part of the onion in this salad.
1/2 chicken breast cooked and seasoned with Tajin Classico, or salt and pepper, or garlic salt. However you want it seasoned. I prefer the chicken warm on my salad. But you could also serve it cold on the salad.
2 TBS slivered almonds
1 TBS sesame seeds
2 TBS wonton strips. I buy these in the produce area at the grocery store with other salad toppings.
Sweet Vinegar Asian Dressing: Makes around 1 1/2 C of dressing
3/4 C Rice Vinegar
4 TBS sugar
1/4 C vegetable oil
1/8 teas sesame seed oil
Add chopped romaine, chopped green onion, and chopped cilantro into serving bowl(s) and toss gently.
Make up dressing by heating up vinegar either on stove or in microwave. Add sugar and whisk until dissolved. Add in vegetable oil, and sesame seed oil. Add in salt and pepper to taste and mix until all combined.
Toast the sesame seeds and sliced almonds in a pan on the stove on medium low heat just for a couple of minutes until lightly toasted. Be careful not to burn.
Add chicken (heated if you desire) to the salad, then the toasted sesame seeds and sliced almonds to the salad.
Top the salad with the wonton strips.
Pour on 2 TBS of dressing onto the salad and serve immediately.
Leftover dressing will keep in fridge for up to 3 months.
Enjoy your salad! You could also easily throw all the ingredients into a wrap if that’s your thing.
Now . . . if I could just master making that cinnamon crunch bagel that Panera makes!