HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


HELP!! Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe - NOT the norm

Does ANYBODY have, have access to, know where to gain access, or know how to find the recipe for the Chinese Chicken Salad made exclusively in the South Bay Area of San Francisco (by South Bay, I mean anywhere between San Carlos to San Jose)?

The salad does not have a "dressing" on it; there is no sweet, peanut sauce; I know it has hot mustard, cilantro, chopped peanuts (Tao-Tao's menu says almonds & cashews but I don't remember that!), plus the chicken, lettuce, and crispy vermicelli, but I'm not sure how it all "goes together" to get that special taste.

Any one who has had it, knows what I'm talking about. Tao-Tao in Santa Clara, Su-Hong in Redwood City, Mings in Palo Alto, China Stix in Santa Clara ... all used to make it. I am living in Texas now and would love to be able to make this salad! Outside of the South Bay, though, I have never seen it on a menu nor have I found a recipe.

Any ideas?

Thanks, ya'all!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Perhaps the first recipe here, with cilantro and no peanut sauce:


    1 Reply
    1. re: scoopG

      Thanks for the link, Scoop, but that's not it. Melanie found it (see below).

    2. Sure, here's the recipe from the venerable Chef Chu's in Los Altos, CA.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Except for the soy dressing added at the end (there was nothing "sweet"), that's it! And I am so glad you said Chef Chu's ... for the life of me I could NOT remember that name (and I started going there in 1975!).

        Thank you, Melanie!

        1. re: Cascokat

          You're welcome, pls post your results here.

          If you have the patience to deal with the site's buggy search engine, you can look for several posts over the years about this Peninsula style of salad and itshistory.

          1. re: Cascokat

            Found the original Kikkoman one on a cache site. Biggest difference (besides ginormous volume) is lack of five spice (which I suspect was added for cookbook) and very different proportion of vinegar on dipping sauce. This version gives Chef Chu's chicken preparation method, as well:

            Ingredients (Yield: 24 servings)

            2 chickens (about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds each), rinsed and cut in half
            cornstarch, for dusting, as needed
            vegetable oil, for deep-frying, asneeded
            4 ounces rice stick noodles, broken into small pieces
            1/2 cup dry mustard
            1/2 cup water
            1/4 cup Asian sesame oil
            3 1/2 cups Soy Dressing (recipe follows)
            4 heads iceberg lettuce, shredded
            1 cup carrots, julienned
            1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
            8 green onions, white part only, slivered
            1 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
            1/2 cup sesame seed, toasted

            Bring 1 gallon water to boil in large pot. Add chicken and return to boil. Simmer chicken over medium heat 10 minutes (steam chicken over boiling water 10 minutes). Remove chicken and drain. Dust chicken with cornstarch; set aside. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 350°F. Add rice sticks in small batches. Deep-fry for only a few seconds until puffed but not browned. Drain on paper towels. Add chicken; deep-fry 7 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Drain well; cool slightly.
            To make Mustard Paste: Mix mustard and water until smooth. Stir in sesame oil to make a smooth, shiny paste.
            To assemble: Remove bones and skin from warm chicken and shred meat by hand or with cleaver. Place chicken on one side of large shallow mixing bowl. Place lettuce, carrots, cilantro, and green onions on other side of bowl. Drizzle Mustard Paste down sides of bowl around ingredients. Just before serving, toss chicken and lettuce mixture together, mixing in Mustard Paste to distribute it evenly. Add rice sticks, peanuts, and sesame seed; toss lightly. Divide salad equally among 24 plates. Spoon generous 2 tablespoons Soy Dressing over each serving.
            To make Soy Dressing: In bowl, combine 2 cups hot chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups soy sauce, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced ginger and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate. (This can be done a few hours ahead to allow the flavors to develop.) Makes about 4 cups.

        2. Years ago I worked with a Chinese-American woman (a fantastic cook) who made her Chef Chu-type Chinese Chicken Salad using Banquet Fried Chicken (frozen) that she baked and cut into pieces. We gave her a hard time about it, but I remember it being great!

          1. Jeff Smith, the late Frugal Gourmet, had a recipe that was as close as I have found to Ming's Chinese Chicken Salad, but I can't remember which cookbook it was in. I fell in love with Ming's salad in 1985 and make this when I have a craving for my favorite Sunday afternoon meal in Palo Alto. If you send me a personal message I can type the recipe out and email it to you. I'm new to Chowhound, and don't really understand how it all works. Sorry to make this difficult.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ddemoney

              Hi there, do you still have this recipe available?

            2. I think the recipe is in Jeff Smith's book The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines

              1. hi there! i am not sure how old this thread is but i have been looking for this recipe for a long time. Tao tao in sunnyvale has it too. I tried the link that was provided to you by one of the users and it does not work. Do you still have the recipe? Thanks!

                11 Replies
                1. re: iloveflippy

                  Hi, all. I feel your pain. I live in Seattle now and miss Tao Tao's salad like crazy! I've made a good approximation by combining salad ingredients (my pref is shredded iceberg, cilantro, julienned scallion, toasted unsalted peanuts, chopped, and toasted sesame seeds, plus poached shredded chicken. not fried, no sai fun noodles... healthy version) with three very simple ingredients.

                  Here's the key! Dressing: mix 1/2 cup peanut oil with prepared hot chinese mustard (like from takeout or Dynasty), and salt. You have to play with this balance depending on how hot your mustard is, but that's it! just those three ingredients. Whisk mustard and kosher salt to tast into oil. it should be really pretty hot and pretty salty. drizzle over the salad VERY sparingly in an oversized bowl. Toss, taste, drizzle. Repeat until perfect. It's GREAT!

                  1. re: Chezstacey

                    That sounds pretty easy. I'll definitely have to give it a shot. Thanks!

                  2. re: iloveflippy

                    I like Barbara Tropp's version from ''The China Moon Cookbook'' .

                    1. re: iloveflippy

                      To iloveflippy: The recipe posted by ChezStacey sounds pretty close. Also (and I haven't looked recently) there's a link to kikkoman.com that indicates it is THE Chef Chu's Chicken Salad (Tao-Tao being a very close second!).

                      Good luck! I would order this to go if I thought they could (or WOULD ship it to Texas!

                      1. re: Cascokat

                        The link is defunct :( I wish that person had cut and pasted the actual recipe. I had to fake it. If anyone has the one that used to be on the Kikkoman site, please share!!

                        1. re: Chezstacey

                          Chef Chu’s Famous Chicken Salad
                          Lawrence Chu - Chef Chu’s, Los Altos, CA
                          MAKES 12 SERVINGS
                          Printable Version • View Video!
                          Our Famous Chicken Salad is quick, healthy, simple and delicious. To maintain the salad's light, fluffy quality, we toss it at the last minute so everything stays nice and crisp. Our light mustard-and-sesame-oil sauce, along with a dash of Five-Spice Salt, gives it a bit of a bite!
                          Some of our customers enjoy sprinkling a little of Chef Chu's Garlic Dipping Sauce over each individual serving for a different flavor sensation.
                          Hand-shred the chicken meat by pulling it apart in strands along the grain, or julienne it with a knife. Set aside.
                          To deep-fry the rice sticks:
                          Heat the oil in a wok to 375 degrees. Add the rice sticks in small batches; deep-fry each batch a few seconds until puffy but still white. (Do not brown.) Remove, and drain on paper towels.
                          To make the hot mustard paste:
                          Stir the mustard powder and water together in a small bowl to make a paste. Stir in the sesame oil until the paste becomes smooth and shiny.
                          To prepare five-spice salt:
                          Combine the salt and five-spice powder in a small skillet. Place over moderate heat, shaking the pan to agitate the ingredients, for about 1 minute.
                          To prepare Chef Chu’s garlic dipping sauce:
                          Simmer the first 4 ingredients in a pan over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat; stir in the vinegar. Let stand for 30 minutes. Serve the sauce warm or at room temperature. It will keep for 1 week, tightly covered in the refrigerator.
                          To assemble:
                          The secret to the success of this salad is how it is assembled. Place the lettuce, carrot and chopped Chinese parsley in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle five-spice salt evenly over the lettuce mixture. (See Chef’s Tips.) Toss well to distribute the salt evenly. Rub the hot mustard paste around the lower sides of the bowl. Add the chicken, peanuts and sesame seeds evenly over the lettuce, reserving some of the peanuts and sesame seeds for garnish. Toss well to distribute the hot mustard paste evenly throughout the salad. Adjust the taste. Add three-quarters of the rice sticks last; toss lightly to distribute evenly. Garnish with the 4 sprigs of Chinese parsley. Reserve the remaining rice sticks to garnish the individual servings.
                          To serve
                          Mound the salad on individual salad plates. Sprinkle the remaining rice sticks over the top. Sprinkle a few crushed peanuts and sesame seeds on top, and add a few sprinkles of Chef Chu’s garlic dipping sauce if you like.
                          CHEF’S TIPS:
                          You may use leftover cooked chicken (fried, barbecued, rotisserie, steamed, smoked or pan-fried), or duck for a different flavor. Slightly warm the chicken or duck, or serve at room temperature, for richer flavor.
                          Add the crisp poultry skin, julienned, to add texture and flavor to the salad.
                          Five-spice salt is added to the lettuce first to help it distribute evenly. If added when the mustard paste is tossed in, it can stick to the mustard and have an unpleasant taste. Also, if added too early, it can wilt the lettuce.

                          1. re: Chezstacey

                            Original recipe link at Kikkoman broken. Here's a working link on the Wayback machine:

                            Chef Chu's Famous Chicken Salad (from Kikkoman website)

                          2. re: Cascokat

                            I found it! Ready? It's LONG:

                            1 pound cooked chicken (about 2 cups)
                            2 cups Pompeian® Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil
                            2 ounces rice sticks, pulled apart into smaller pieces
                            Half-head iceberg lettuce, shredded ¼ inch
                            ½ cup julienned carrots
                            10 to 12 Chinese parsley (cilantro) sprigs with stems, coarsely chopped
                            ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice salt (See accompanying recipe.)
                            ¼ cup crushed roasted peanuts
                            1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
                            4 Chinese parsley (cilantro) sprigs, for garnish
                            For hot mustard paste:
                            2 teaspoons Colman’s hot mustard powder
                            2 teaspoons water
                            1 tablespoon sesame oil
                            For five-spice salt:
                            2 tablespoons salt
                            ¼ teaspoon five-spice powder
                            For Chef Chu’s garlic dipping sauce (optional):
                            1 cup chicken broth (fat removed)
                            ½ cup soy sauce
                            6 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
                            2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
                            ¼ cup white vinegar

                            1. re: Chezstacey

                              Wow! I can't believe you took the time to post all of that! I am NOT complaining, though!

                              I've been out of the Bay Area for almost ten years and still crave that salad. I'm sure people in Texas won't appreciate it (then again, who knows?) but I am definitely going to serve it a few friends. Probably minus the garlic sauce. That must be a new twist (or my memory really is going down with age!).

                              Thank you, thank you, thank you, Chezstacey! I'm sending this to my daughter in Las Vegas and I know she will thank you, also.

                              1. re: Cascokat

                                It was selfish, believe me! I keep coming upon this thread when i get a craving and start searching again. There are no recipes for Tao Tao's, and this time I struck gold on Chef Chu's, so I wanted to make sure the full recipe made it into chowhound so I can always find it. My mom arrives Tuesday, and I'm planning to make it for us. Chinese chicken salad for Passover, anyone?

                                1. re: Chezstacey

                                  "Chinese chicken salad for Passover, anyone?"
                                  LOL! ABSOLUTELY!!

                                  You may get a chance to make it before I do ... let me know how it turns out.
                                  (Happy Passover!)

                        2. See, now that's the problem. I've tried these recipes. I've tried these other restaurants (Ming's Tao-Tao's)...and the chinese chicken salad is NOTHING like the one at Su Hong. I *LOVE* Su Hong's chinese chicken salad, and haven't yet found a recipe that comes even close, including all the ones listed here. I STILL want it (I live in Boston now and pine for that salad regularly), so if anyone figures out how to really make it taste like theirs, let me know!!!

                          1. I don't know if this is what you are looking for, but here is my recipe. I've used this for over twenty years and it's also a hit.

                            CHICKEN SALAD WITH SPICY SOY DRESSING

                            3 Chicken Breasts ½ tsp salt
                            1 whole green onion ½ tsp sugar
                            1 slice ginger root Water
                            1 Tbsp sherry

                            Place chicken breasts in 1 2 qt saucepan with onion, ginger root, sherry, salt, sugar and water. Bring to a boil, cover and turn off heat. Steep the chicken for 25 minutes.

                            When chicken is cool enough to handle remove and discard skin and bones. Shred meat into small strips. (chicken has a better texture if it’s shredded by hand)


                            One rotisserie chicken, shredded

                            *6-10 C finely shredded lettuce (I use a mix of Iceberg and Romaine)
                            ¼ cup cilantro (optional)
                            4 green onions, chopped
                            ½ pkg Won ton skins – Cut in thin strips and deep fried

                            Spicy Soy Dressing

                            3 Tbsp vinegar 1 clove garlic, finely minced
                            3 Tbsp sugar ½ tsp sesame seed oil
                            1 T soy sauce ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
                            ½ tsp ginger powder 1 C mayonnaise

                            Combine all ingredients for dressing, mix well and refrigerate.

                            To serve mound lettuce, green onion and cilantro in salad bowl. Arrange chicken over lettuce. Add deep fried won ton strips. Add enough dressing to lightly coat and toss. Serve immediately

                            *The amount of lettuce used is directly proportional to the ratio you want of chicken to lettuce.

                            1. Okay, so I figured it out. A lot of people posted recipes here, and many of them sound very good, but nearly all of them use shredded chicken, which is DEFINITELY healthier but is DEFINITELY NOT what is in Su Hong's salad. Su Hong's salad has little cut pieces of fried chicken in it...like a cutlet that has been pounded very thin and fried and then cut in little slivers. There is also no discernible taste of mustard in Su Hong's salad....possibly Mings, but Mings salad is, in my view, NOTHING like Su Hong's. So here's the deal. My recipe is probably not complete, but I made it a few times, and it COMPLETELY satisfies the craving for Su Hong chicken salad. The crispy rice noodles (which I don't think are in Su Hong's salad, it's really very simple) are optional, as are scallions and chopped peanuts. But here's how I do it (barely a recipe, more like a guideline).

                              I take a chicken breast, pounded very thin, and fry it with a thin coating (or you can buy a fried chicken breast at the deli, even eaiser). I slice it very thin, into little matchstick size pieces, probably 1/8" by about 3/4". I throw all of those pieces in a large bowl, and pour some sesame oil over them, and salt relatively liberally (as most people know, the thing that so often makes restaurant food so yummy is that sodium levels are much higher than what we would do at home, which is why it's often so hard to replicate taste). Then I toss that around, so all the chicken is coated. I don't have an exact amount of either, it depends on how much chicken you're using. Enough sesame oil to coat lightly, but nothing really left on surface of bowl. Salt to taste, but as I say, more is probably better for this purpose (i.e. making it taste like Su Hong's).

                              I take either Romaine or Iceberg (the latter works better, but is not as healthy) and chop it into little slices. I chop up a LOT of cilantro, and some green onion (scallion). I chop up some peanuts.

                              Then I toss the whole thing together--NO MORE DRESSING of any kind, just that which coated the chicken.

                              It tastes JUST like Su Hong's, at least to me, which has left me one happy east coaster. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I was visiting the SF Peninsula, and for the first time EVER, I didn't care about having the salad, so didn't make a trip to Su Hong. So it must be close enough!!

                              See if it works for you. VERY VERY simple, but so is Su Hong's salad.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: reinzig

                                OMG Rienzig, thank you, thank you, thank you.... for real. Su Hong's express I lived on for 20 years.... then I left the bay area and moved to Michigan.... You are bring a piece of home back to me here in Michigan..... I have searched and searched for years for this recipe.... thanks again and I will let you know what I think... thanks again.

                              2. If you're in the area, try Taroko in Ashland. The owners are from the Bay Area, and have brought this style of chicken salad here with them.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Seems like all of these original links are broken. Here's the Nick Stellino's show recipe link on the Wayback Machine:

                                    Chef Chu’s Famous Chicken Salad
                                    Lawrence Chu - Chef Chu’s, Los Altos, CA

                                    Printable Version - Nick Stellino's Chef Chu's Famous Chicken Salad

                                  2. My Mom had Ming's actual recipe if you are still wanting it. It's very similar to Tao Tao's (Sunnyvale) also.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: BAnnB

                                      BAnnB, I would love to have Ming's recipe! Years ago, it was a toss up between Mings and Tao Tao. I can still taste it. And I now have a HUGE craving!

                                      Can you post it on here? Thank you SO much.

                                        1. re: BAnnB

                                          Please do post it here.

                                          Ming's will be downsizing, so it feels even more urgent to save recipes like that. Here's my post from 2012 on the Crispy Chicken Salad there.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            I didn't know about the downsizing, so I looked it up: http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/20...
                                            Is this correct?

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              That is not the original salad from years gone by. There was no purple cabbage.
                                              I started going to Ming's about 55years ago, evenbefore the salad appeared on the menu.

                                          2. My family started going to Ming's shortly after it opened at the original location, circa 1958. I was about 10. It became our regular out to dinner place. I don't think they had the salad then, it came later, after they moved to a new bigger place "the other side of the freeway." The Rumaki was wonderful--not chicken livers--butterfly shrimp, bacon, water chestnut, battered and deep-fried. Ming's had a bad spell after I moved to the Midwest. My folks told me that a substantial number of staff were killed (in a car accident?). Ming's was re-named "Ming's Palace" for a while but wasn't very good. But, many years later it recovered, returning to the quality of the old Ming's.

                                            Friends took our family to TaoTao--few years after we became Ming's regulars--at it's original hole-in-the-wall location, to have "Chinese ravioli" (aka pot stickers). Family and friends continued going when TaoTao moved, going regularly for New Years' dinners. Final place we went regularly was Fung Lum's in San Jose. (My brother introduced us to Chef Chu's too.) I'd moved away but parents and other family members got to know Fung Lum's staff. We had large family brunches there 3-4 times a year. When they closed, several of the Fung Lum's staff moved (back?)to Ming's, where my parents, then in their late 80's, were very happy to be able to see them. Last time I went to Ming's was early November, 2008, where extended family chatted and reminisced with "David" and others.

                                            This is a retyped version of what my Mom gave me about 45 years ago [with a few extra comments from me in brackets]

                                            Ming’s Shredded Chicken Salad [Clearly a recipe written up with amounts decreased for home cooks.]
                                            1 fryer (2-3 lbs) cut up, washed, dried with paper towel. Season with salt. Marinade 2 hours or longer [about 4 hrs works well] with the following ingredients:
                                            1 tsp sesame oil
                                            1Tbs soy sauce
                                            1 tsp dry mustard [I use Penzy’s Oriental mustard but others, like Coleman’s work too.]
                                            2 Tbs chopped coriander leaves/stems [aka cilantro, chinese parsley]
                                            1 Tbs hoisin sauce
                                            1 Tbs pale dry sherry
                                            1Tbs grated ginger root [minced ok too]
                                            2 T red vinegar (Chinese) [1.5 Tbs Balsamic also works or 2 Tbs diluted 1:2 white/cider]

                                            Roast chicken on rack in preheated 400 F oven, 20 minutes on each side or until brown. Cool and shred enough to yield 2 cups meat. Skim off excess fat from drippings and return drippings to shredded chicken. (For added zest, mix 1 Tbs dry mustard to drippings [I always do this!] [Extra shredded meat can be frozen for another time.]

                                            Prepare separately:

                                            ½ c. chopped cocktail peanuts [or dry roasted]
                                            ½ c. sesame seeds slightly browned over medium heat with 1 tsp sesame oil
                                            2 c. deep fried rice sticks (small amounts in very hot oil). [I make extra and freeze in freezer bag for the next time.]
                                            2 c. finely shredded (like coleslaw) iceberg lettuce [sometimes I use romaine]
                                            2 stalks green onions finely shredded [I sometimes use 3]
                                            ¼ c fresh coriander leaves (not stems) [I often use extra]

                                            When ready to serve, toss chicken, lettuce, green onions, coriander leaves, peanuts, sesame seeds and rick sticks together lightly. [I mix some of the sesame seeds with the shredded chicken first. Makes the chicken a bit crunchier.]

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: BAnnB

                                              Thanks so much - I can't wait to make this!

                                              1. re: BAnnB

                                                Thank you so much. I remember it without the purple cabbage also. The recipe you posted sounds exactly as I remember it. I've already made my shopping list!

                                                1. re: BAnnB

                                                  Clarification. White or cider vinegar works if you dilute it 1 part vinegar with 1 part water.