Welcome to Chow with Me, where Chowhound’s executive editor Hana Asbrink shares all of the irresistible things she’s cooking, eating, reading, buying, and more. Today: The best mayo-free bang bang chicken salad to ward off waning summer appetites.
Summer is very much here in New York. As of this writing, I am swatting away early evening mosquitoes that seem to liken my ankles to a dinner buffet, and am already regretting not putting a coaster under my condensation-prone glass of iced water. It’s hot, it’s muggy, and my appetite’s as sluggish as the barometric pressure outside.
What to eat during these dog days of summer, when my taste buds are in desperate need of a revival and the thought of spending more time than is necessary in front of a stovetop sends me straight to the cool embrace of my air conditioning vents? The answer comes in the form of this cool, crunchy, full-flavored chicken salad.
I discovered this incredible Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken on my new favorite YouTube channel, Marion’s Kitchen. MasterChef alumna Marion Grasby is the talent behind this channel, and the Bangkok-based Thai-Australian cook always manages to make *exactly* what I want to eat when it comes to Asian comfort food classics. (Bonus: Her cheeky mum, Noi. Give that lady her own channel, please.)
Marion’s spicy bang bang chicken salad is a nod to the authentic Sichuan dish. “The traditional bang bang chicken is said to originate from Sichuan province, and is poached before being pounded (hence the ‘bang bang’ apparently) and then shredded,” she explains. “Being a fan of Asian-style poached chicken, I decided to take inspiration from this original version rather than the more modern fried version.” No flour, breading, frying, or sweet mayonnaise glaze-coated chicken bites here.
Hers is also a fun lesson in cooking techniques: As mentioned, the boneless skinless chicken breasts are gently poached with aromatics like ginger and garlic to retain all moisture and infuse flavor, before being broken up with a rolling pin or even your palm to flatten the cooked chicken before it’s torn into smaller, craggy, sauce-hugging shreds. And if you don’t eat chicken, don’t fret. “You can also do a meat-free version of this salad by slicing firm tofu into strips and tossing them with the cucumber and the dressing,” advises Marion.
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Let’s talk about this bang bang sauce for a minute. Marion, when she’s not creating amazing recipes, develops her own line of readymade condiments (we’re huge fans of her Sweet Chili sauce around here), so she knows a thing or two about what makes a good sauce. Here, pantry-friendly ingredients including soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, and sesame seeds come together in an adjust-heat-to-your-liking concoction that brings otherwise mild poached chicken breasts to life—and resuscitates tired summer taste buds. I’ve also taken liberties with this dressing (which you can drizzle over dumplings for a bonus use), occasionally adding in my favorite sesame sauce to it for a slightly creamy, spicy concoction that is also quite addictive.
I had to ask Marion what else she enjoys eating during what I’m sure are Bangkok’s many hot days. “A spicy Thai papaya salad (som tum) is my go-to most days here in Bangkok. I’m lucky because there’s a street cart lady just near my studio that makes the most amazing som tum. I just love having something light and spicy, and most importantly, something cooked by someone else!” Ain’t that the truth.
Find the recipe for Marion’s Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken below, and watch Marion walk you through the entire process here.
Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken
- 2 x 200g (7 oz) chicken breasts
- 4 slices ginger, bruised
- 3 garlic cloves, bruised
- 2 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
- 1 large cucumber, finely sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (either white vinegar or Chinese black vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon chili oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Place 4 cups of water in saucepan. Add the ginger, garlic, and spring onions. Add the chicken breasts and place over high heat. Wait for the water to just start to gently simmer, then turn the heat down to medium and continue to simmer gently for 8 minutes. Then turn the heat off (leave the saucepan on the hot stovetop) and leave for 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl of iced water. Reserve 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid.
- When the chicken is cool, use a rolling pin to bang the chicken pieces to loosen them. Then tear into fine shreds.
- For the dressing, heat the Sichuan peppercorns in a dry frying pan until fragrant. Use a mortar and pestle to grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a bowl. Add the toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, salt, and the reserved poaching liquid.
- Scatter the cucumber over a serving plate. Top with the shredded chicken. Spoon over the dressing. Add additional chili oil if you like it spicy.
Images courtesy of Marion Grasby