Chinese Chicken Salad Burgers
I’ve never been a terribly emotional person.
In fact, my parents claim that I didn’t cry as a child, and they were actually “mildy concerned” that my lack of tears indicated some sort of “serious psychological issue.” (This confuses me because I’m pretty sure I’d be 100% pumped if my kid didn’t cry. I can only hope it’s genetic.)
Since I’m being honest here, I’ll just say that overt sappiness has always made me squirm, and the thought of crying in front of people is my personal equivalent of the “naked in public” dream. I’ve never been one for nostalgia, or to go all goo-goo eyed over puppies and babies, and talking about feelings generally stresses me out.
At least I wasn’t…
I’m not really sure how to describe the recent transformation in my psyche, but I swear I’m turning into some sort of flowery, emotive caricature of my former self.
Just to give you a few examples: I no longer get grossed out when people want to talk about feelings. (I’m actually pretty into it.) I think love is the happiest thing ever. I started following that Instagram account where the dog and baby nap together (and I show it to everyone). The word “adorable” has somehow worked its way into my daily vocabulary.
Oh, and I’ve started crying. ALL THE TIME. And it’s mostly out of happiness, which is even worse. Weddings? Guaranteed tears. Inspirational speeches? Excuse me while I shamelessly weep. Heartwarming YouTube videos? Please, stop sending them to me, people. Those things are dangerous. I recently viewed an X Factor video about a girl who overcame severe agoraphobia to try out for the show…I almost drowned in my own tears. Dear God.
Whether it’s something in the vodka water, or I’m just turning soft in my old age and getting all kinds of comfortable in my own skin, I can’t be sure. (And no, I’m not pregnant. Gross.) All I know is that this emotional “condition” is serious, and it’s only getting worse.
The worst part about the new me is that I’ve become really, really ridiculously nostalgic. I can’t help it. My sentimentality has gotten completely out of control, especially on the food front, and I keep reminiscing about my favorite childhood meals (see: Orange Julius smoothie) to anyone that will listen (i.e. people reading this blog).
While there are many magical foods that transport me back to my youth and make me instantly happy, the most obvious is probably Chinese Chicken Salad. No salad had a greater heyday than Chinese Chicken salad in the late 90s. It was everywhere, but I was particularly partial to California Pizza Kitchen’s version (which was called “Oriental” Chicken Salad, but whateva.) All my super cool tween friends and I would get dropped off by our parents at the outdoor mall in Santa Barbara, where we’d spend hours trying on low-rise jeans at Wet Seal and talk to boys on our Nokias, before heading to CPK for salads. 12 was a good year.
I loved those epic salads almost as much as the Juicy velour jumpsuits that I ate them in. (FYI, Juicy Couture went belly up last month and closed all its stores. Moment of silence, please.) And when a friend brought up CPK Oriental Chicken Salad a few weeks ago, I immediately started craving one.
For better or worse, I do not live near a CPK, and those salads were actually ridiculously fattening, so I decided to put my fancy culinary skills to good use and make my own. Then I thought, what if instead of putting chicken on the salad, I put the salad on the chicken? (Deep thoughts by a food blogger.) Grilled chicken turned into chicken burgers, and bing, bang, boom, Chinese Chicken Salad Burgers were born.
These salad burgers are ridiculous. The ground chicken is mixed with plenty of fresh ginger, garlic, scallions, and a touch of Sriracha, yielding tender, juicy burgers with a subtle kick. These perfect patties are then topped with a gloriously crunchy salad of cabbage, romaine, carrots and cilantro, and drizzled with a slightly sweet and tangy Asian-inspired dressing, making each lettuce-wrapped bite an explosion of bright, fresh flavor. Sentimental success.
Honestly, I get a little teary just thinking about the awesomeness.
If you’re not already on board, these fabulous little flavor bombs also happen to be nutritional all-stars. The burgers themselves are packed with lean protein, and the salad provides a hearty dose of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The dressing has none of the sugar or scary ingredients in traditional “Chinese dressing,” and it’s significantly lower in fat and sodium. Lettuce wrapping these bad boys keeps things extra light, and I’m pleased to report that they are both paleo and Dude Diet-friendly. Wonderland bodies for everyone!
Please do not go postal when you see the length of the ingredient list, people. It looks long because I separated the ingredients for the burgers, salad, and dressing, but there’s a lot of overlap, and you should already have most things in your pantry/fridge. I swear on my now very valuable Juicy jumpsuit collection that the whole shebang won’t take you longer than 30 minutes from start to finish. Seriously.
Embrace nostalgia, and emotions, and Chinese Chicken Salad Burgers, friends.
I love you. (Insert hearts and rainbows.)
Chinese Chicken Salad Burgers: (Serves 4)
For the burgers:
1 pound ground chicken
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions (whites and light green parts only), minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
For the salad:
2 cups thinly sliced hearts of romaine
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 scallions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, grated
¾ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
4 large lettuce leaves (I prefer bibb lettuce) OR buns of your choice
Preparing your Chinese Chicken Salad Burgers:
-Place all the ingredients for the burgers in a large bowl.
-Use your hands to mix the ingredients until just combined. (Yes, I know some of you don’t love touching raw meat, but it will be over soon.)
-Form the chicken mixture into 4 equal patties. They will be pretty mushy/messy, but damp hands will help.
-Heat about 1½ tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan. (There should be just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.) When hot, add the burgers and cook for about 7 minutes on each side until nicely browned and cooked through.
-Remove the burgers from the pan and let rest for 5 minutes.
-While your burgers are cooking, you’re going to make the salad. Place all the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl and toss to combine. (Easy!) Briefly set aside.
-In a small bowl combine all the ingredients for the dressing.
-Now it’s time to serve these bad boys…
-You have two options:
1. Serve burgers on lettuce/buns topped with salad and drizzle with dressing to taste.
2. Add half of the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Top burgers with dressed salad and serve with extra dressing for dipping/drizzling.
NOTE: You will have extra salad. This is a good thing.
Chickity China, the Chinese chicken.
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