The Brooklyn Diner’s Chinese Chicken Salad

The following recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad is not at all a true Chinese recipe. It is from the Brooklyn Diner, the restaurant on W. 57th St. and Seventh Ave., across the street from Carnegie Hall. For that matter, the Brooklyn Diner is not a true diner, although it certainly looks like one. When it first opened, I thought its flashy diner architecture was misplaced on swanky 57th St., but now it seems to look just right. And it is hugely popular for every meal of the day. Besides this fabulous and very simple salad, the menu offers many ethnic dishes and diner specialties. I particularly love the macaroni and cheese, which is really egg pasta dressed with lots of cream and Parmigiano and glazed under the broiler. The hot dog is something like 15 inches long and a sensational, spicy, crispy-skinned formulation of a frankfurter. The hamburger is great. I love the potted brisket, which (very unkosher) comes with an especially creamy noodle pudding. Okay, there I am, back to Yiddish food. There’s no escaping it.

Brooklyn Diner’s Chinese Chicken Salad

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The Dressing
Makes about 1 quart,
Enough for at least 8 to 12 servings of salad

2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons tahini paste
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons duck sauce
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (or 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar dissolved in 2 tablespoons additional soy sauce)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger root (use the fine side of a box grater)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Colman’s powdered mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold water, if necessary

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and tahini until smooth, then add all the remaining ingredients except the powdered mustard and salt. Whisk again, then sprinkle the mustard and salt over the surface of the dressing and whisk again to blend. If the tahini was the very thick kind, you may want to whisk in as much as ¼ cup water to thin the consistency to that of heavy cream.
Refrigerate for at least several hours; 24 hours is even better. The dressing may be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

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The Salad
Serves 4 to 6

1½ pounds Napa cabbage (1/2 3-pound head)
1½ pounds roasted chicken, off the bone (Brooklyn Diner uses
only white meat; you’ll need 2 chickens to provide this much)
1 11-ounce can Mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained (or use 4 peeled,
fresh Mandarins, broken into segments and pitted)
½ cup sliced scallions, using all the white and some green
1½ to 2 cups Brooklyn Diner Chinese Chicken Salad dressing (recipe follows)
¼ cup or more fresh cilantro, in whole leaves

Cut the cabbage in half the long way. Cut out the small core at the base. Cut each half in half again the long way. Slice the cabbage crosswise into fine shreds. You should have about 8 cups. Wash and dry very well. Place in a large salad bowl.

With your hands, pull the chicken into smaller pieces. You should have about 4 cups pulled chicken. Add to the bowl with the cabbage. Add the orange segments, and the sliced scallions. Pour on the dressing and toss well to mix.

Spread the salad on a large platter, serve in a large bowl, or divide between 4 to 6 dinner plates.

Garnish with whole cilantro leaves and serve. (You can also coarsely chop the cilantro and toss some in with the salad, and use some as garnish.)

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