Ming’s of Palo Alto is often cited as an originator of the California-Chinese dish, Chinese Chicken Salad. Available with the original fried chicken or a steamed chicken option, Ming’s Chicken Salad can be ordered as an appetizer, $5.75, half-order, $9.40 or full order, $18.00. It’s also an anchor on lunch special plates alongside vegetable fried rice. Every customer at Ming’s orders this dish. Since I’d never tried it, I stopped here for lunch yesterday.
The presentation of the appetizer portion is pretty tricked out. A deep-fried wheat wafer crisp sporting a pinked edge and similar in texture to fried eggroll wrappers forms a cup for holding the portion. Red cabbage provides threads of color among the toss of puffy rice noodles, shredded iceberg lettuce, and cilantro. A scatter of crushed peanuts crowns the salad.
The chicken, a mix of white and dark meat, is pulled into big chunks rather than shredded. Skinless, there's nothing crispy about the chicken. Yet, the richer flavor and fragrance of deep-frying carries through.
The dressing tasted more mustardy than the version at Chef Chu’s, my most recent experience with Peninsula-style chicken salad. Chef Chu’s dominant flavors are soy sauce and garlic, whereas Ming’s is a bit tarter and decidedly more salty. Or maybe I was unduly influenced by the pot of hot mustard on the condiment tray.
For contrast, here's a photo from 2010 of Chef Chu's version. The chicken has a brown, fried edge and clearly is sliced rather than pulled apart.
I quite liked this dish, preferring it to Chef Chu's, and would order it again. During lunch time there is a $1.25 charge for tea.
1700 Embarcadero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Phone: (650) 856-7700
Some background on Chinese chicken salad,