This delicious Salad with Noodles and Chicken is a main meal salad I guarantee you and your whole family will enjoy. It’s an “ideal salad”. You’ll find my recipe for Salad with Noodles and Chicken at the end of this post, which is all about salads.
Love them? Abhor them? I know folk (even in my own family) who don’t like salads but eat them because they know that salads (generally) are good for you. Salads come in so many guises. One could be excused for not knowing what qualifies as “salad”.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines salad (noun) as:
1. A dish of uncooked vegetables, typically served with a savoury dressing. 2. Any of various raw or cooked foods served cold, usually cut up and mixed with a dressing: fruit salad, potato salad. 3. Any of various herbs used for such a dish or commonly eaten raw.
In short: A salad is a cold dish of raw or cooked vegetables (or fruit) with or without other foods, usually cut up and mixed with a dressing.
Salads are not new. According to food historians, salads have been around since the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. The first known salads were simple combinations of mixed green vegetables with a dressing of oil, vinegar and salt.
The English word salad comes from the Old French word salade. The root of these words is the Latin sal (salt). The key ingredient of a salad, and the reason for the name “salad”, is therefore its salted dressing. Thus, for a dish of cut up raw or cooked food to qualify as “salad”, it must have a dressing! That’s a given.
A salad may be small or large, savoury or sweet. It can be served as an appetiser, a side salad (to complement another dish), main meal or dessert. My Ambrosia: A Cool Dessert (January 14, 2017) is an example of a sweet salad. (Click the pink link to access the recipe.)
In Australia, the humble salad has undergone many transformations over the past 70 years or so, as food preferences and tastes have changed.
The salad recipes contained in my late mother’s 1934 and 1949 recipe books are telling.
The 1934 book includes recipes for Beetroot Jelly, Cucumber Jelly and Tomato Jelly. (I remember my grandmother making various set jellied vegetable and meat dishes in the 1950s and 1960s.) There are recipes for Cauliflower Salad, Crab Salad, Macaroni Salad, Potato Salad, Egg and Tomato Salad and Waldorf Salad. There are a number of recipes for mayonnaise and other salad dressings.
The 27 salad recipes in my mother’s 1949 recipe book are similar to those in the 1934 recipe book. The collection includes six recipes for set jellied salads (Carrot Salad and Orange Salad are two examples), three recipes for Potato Salad, three for mayonnaise and three for salad dressings.
Do you remember the salads your grandmother and mother made? I do.
My grandmother’s salads were very basic. They consisted of tomato, onion, cucumber, beetroot and cold sliced meat or brawn (a meat jelly). Sometimes she made a vegetable jelly. Always, to dress her salads she prepared the most wonderful mayonnaise. I remember it well. It was deliciously sweet, salty and tangy. In a 1932 edition of Brisbane’s Sunday Mail, I found a recipe for mayonnaise like my grandmother made. This is how the recipe appeared in the newspaper:
Here is an excellent mayonnaise for the busy housewife. The hard boiled yolk of one or two eggs, ¼ teaspoonful of mustard, ½ teaspoonful of salt, 2 tablespoonful of condensed milk, 2 tablespoonsful of vinegar – more or less to taste. Put yolk in basin, and mix with mustard and salt until quite smooth [add milk], then gradually add vinegar. Do not pour dressing over salad till just ready to serve.
Source: Unknown. (1932). “Salad Dressing”. Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 – 1954), Sunday 17 July 1932, page 18.
My mother’s salads were almost always the same. Delightful but predictable. I’m referring to her main meal salads. On each person’s plate she placed a serving of meat (typically sliced corned beef), shredded lettuce, grated carrot and cheese, sliced tomato, beetroot and cucumber. Each plate of salad was beautifully presented, so colourful and inviting. On the table she would place a jar of her delicious homemade Mango Chutney (a condiment to accompany the meat) and a jar of purchased mayonnaise (for each person to add as much or as little dressing as they desired). The salad was always accompanied by bread and butter, which gave a carbohydrate boost to the meal.
Of course, my mother made other salads, such as Potato Salad, Rice Salad and Coleslaw, generally as part of a buffet for barbecues, dinner parties or on special occasions. I still have a copy of a 16-page liftout “Cool Summer Salads” from a 1972 edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly, which my mother kept in her recipe collection. It is indicative of salads and salad-making in Australia in the 1970s.
Today there is a plethora of main meal salads to choose from on menus at restaurants, in recipe books, food magazines and on the internet.
We are spoilt for choice. You’ll find Caesar Salad, Thai Beef Salad, Greek Salad, Chicken Waldorf Salad, Orange Sweet Potato and Fried Noodle Salad, Quinoa Tabouli, Wombok Salad (my husband’s favourite) and Pearl Barley Salad, to name just a few.
I shared my recipe for Pearl Barley Salad on my blog a couple of months ago (November 18, 2017). A lime juice dressing gives the dish a refreshing, tangy taste. Pearl Barley Salad is light, nutritious, versatile and super-easy to prepare. You can serve it as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish, or as a vegetarian option on its own with crusty bread. Either way, I think it qualifies as an ideal salad. You might like to try it. (Click the pink link to access the recipe.)
Salads. There are so many to choose from. Is one salad better than the other? Is there such a thing as an “ideal salad”? If so, what are the characteristics of an ideal salad?
An ideal salad.
I believe an ideal salad is characterised by seven (7) criteria. Salad with Noodles and Chicken meets each one of these seven criteria. It’s an ideal salad. Let me explain why.
#1. The basic salad consists of four parts: leaf, stem, root and fruit.
An article entitled “Salad Hints” published in a Queensland newspaper (Toowoomba’s Western Star and Roma Advertiser) in July 1946 described an ideal salad as one consisting of three parts leaf, root and fruit. I’ve added a fourth part – stem.
- Leaf vegetables include lettuce, rocket, spinach, watercress, cabbage, kale and herbs (such as coriander, mint, parsley).
- Stem vegetables include potatoes (yes, they are plant stems), shallots, celery stalks and asparagus.
- Root vegetables include sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroot, turnips, parsnips, onions and garlic.
- Fruits include tomatoes, capsicums, avocados, pumpkin, zucchini and cucumbers (we call all of these “vegetables” but botanically speaking they are fruits), along with olives, apples, pears, oranges, pineapples and mangoes.
The salad part of Salad with Noodles and Chicken combines one of each of these four (leaf, stem, root and fruit): lettuce, shallots, carrot and capsicum.
#2. The vegetables and fruit are fresh, clean and in perfect condition when served.
Salad vegetables may be raw or cooked. If raw, they should be crisp, crunchy or firm. If cooked, they should be tender and firm. Salad vegetables must be washed in cold water and dried thoroughly before use. This is especially important for leaf vegetables, as oily dressings don’t adhere to wet leaves but run to the bottom of the bowl or plate. Vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, turnips and beetroot must be cooked (boiled, steamed, grilled or roasted), then cooled, prior to adding to a salad. Once prepared, salad vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to be combined and the dressing added.
I don’t peel certain vegetables (such as carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes) but simply wash and scrub them well before use. Much of their goodness lies just beneath the skin. I cut the carrot matchsticks for Salad with Noodles and Chicken from an unpeeled carrot.
Sticks of raw carrot or capsicum, chopped celery or apple, make wonderful additions to any salad. When fresh they are crunchy and give you something to sink your teeth into. Consider adding at least one of these to every salad you make.
#3. The salad looks attractive.
With so many different vegetables and fruits to choose from today (whether they are in season or otherwise), it’s not difficult to produce a salad that is colourful and combines ingredients of various shape, size and texture. The more variety in the salad the better.
The manner in which a salad is displayed and served is important. To enhance the appeal of your homemade salad, I suggest placing it in a beautiful crystal or ceramic bowl or on a large platter that has an interesting or unusual shape. Use salad servers. You want your family or guests to exclaim, “Wow! That looks terrific.”
Take Salad with Noodles and Chicken as an example. It’s colourful (with its vivid red, orange and two shades of green) and varied in visual texture (shredded lettuce, carrot sticks, capsicum strips, shallot rounds, long flat noodles and chicken strips). To serve, I placed the ingredients in layers on a large square white platter, which I think enhanced its appearance.
#4. The salad includes a protein-rich food.
Examples of protein-rich foods are meat, chicken, fish, prawns, cheese and eggs. These foods are satisfying and help make a salad a hearty main meal option.
Any kind of meat may be used: cold sliced beef, lamb or pork, corned beef or ham. Use slices of grilled fish or chicken (as in Salad with Noodles and Chicken), or cooked and shelled prawns. Include any one of a variety of cheeses – cheddar, parmesan or feta – sliced, cubed, grated or crumbled (as appropriate). Hard-boiled eggs can be cut in half, sliced or, with a little more effort, stuffed.
#5. A cooked grain food adds texture and bulk.
Light main meal salads are enriched and made more substantial by the addition of small quantities of cooked grain foods like rice, pasta, couscous, pearl barley or quinoa. Grain foods also provide more variety to the texture of a salad, as is the case for the soft Pad Thai rice noodles used in Salad with Noodles and Chicken.
#6. The dressing makes the salad.
A salad is made or marred by its dressing. The choice of salad dressing and when to add the dressing are important considerations when making an ideal salad. The dressing may be a vinaigrette (oil with vinegar and seasonings), a thick creamy mayonnaise or something altogether different. For some salads, it is advisable to provide the dressing in a bottle or dish on the table, so diners can add as much or as little as they fancy. As a rule, to ensure salad ingredients stay crisp and firm, add the dressing just before serving.
Today, there are so many different kinds of ready-made dressings to choose from at the supermarket – it’s simply mind boggling. But I think you’ll agree that a homemade dressing is superior to the bought variety. Like my grandmother, I make my own salad dressings (although not mayonnaise, until this week). For example, to dress a green salad, I make a vinaigrette of olive oil with fine white vinegar or lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of herbs (usually dried thyme and oregano). It’s a breeze to make and it tastes great too.
The dressing for Salad with Noodles and Chicken is unusual. It combines sweet chilli sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame seeds. Together, they blend to produce a sauce that is sweet, sour, spicy and salty. It’s a boon for the tastebuds! It’s the perfect complement for the vegetables, Pad Thai noodles and grilled chicken. Without it, the dish would be bland and dull.
#7. The salad includes seeds and/or nuts.
Seeds and nuts enhance a salad by their flavour and texture. Just a few make an impact. Use sesame seeds (a special ingredient of the dressing for Salad with Noodles and Chicken), pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Toss in a handful of whole walnuts, pecans, cashew nuts or slivered almonds. Seeds and nuts are not only flavoursome and chewy but also highly nutritious.
So, there you are. Now you know what I mean by an ideal salad.
What do you think constitutes an ideal salad? What is your best example of an ideal salad? I invite you to share your thoughts and example with me and my readers in the comments section following this post.
My recipe for Salad with Noodles and Chicken is found below. Why not give it a go? I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. After all, in my opinion, it’s an ideal salad.
SALAD WITH NOODLES AND CHICKEN
1 small iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 medium red capsicum, cut into strips
3 shallots (or green onions), sliced into rounds
250 g (1 packet) Pad Thai rice noodles
4 cups of boiling water (for soaking noodles)
400g chicken breast fillets (without skin)
¼ cup sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Prepare the dressing by placing all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well. Set aside.
- Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with about 4 cups of boiling water. Allow to stand until the noodles are soft (about 10 minutes). When soft, drain and set aside to cool.
- Prepare the vegetables: Cut the carrot into matchsticks. Slice the capsicum into thin strips about 3 cm long. Cut the shallots into thin rounds. Slice the lettuce very thinly.
- Place the noodles, lettuce, capsicum, shallots and carrots in layers on a serving platter.
- Grill the chicken (on a barbecue or stovetop) until browned and cooked through. Cut into thin strips. Place the chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.
- Drizzle the dressing over the chicken, salad and noodles.
- Serve immediately.