Monday, December 29, 2008

Chicken Salad Sandwich + Out & About In Chinatown

People close to me call me "The Organizer", as if planning and organizing are my superpowers! Huh. Little do they know. I've evolved, folks. Being married to someone as laid back and easy going as DH has rubbed off on me. A level of spontaneity has crept into my being. For instance, one of my favorite things to do is wander around aimlessly in Manhattan. I grab my city map, pick out a general area I want to explore, just enough cash to indulge any impulsive roadside purchases, and off I go! Granted, I can't let go of control completely, but this is still an improvement ... ask DH.

Recently, I was asked to show a friend around Chinatown, and I think I was more excited about it than she was! But it was going to be a long walk, so I had to go prepared. That meant a hearty lunch, but not so heavy as to make me sleepy. This is one of my two favorite ways to prepare Chicken Salad, and it was inspired by Pioneer Woman's Chicken Salad (that gal makes me snort with laughter and salivate with hunger!).
Crunchy Chicken Salad

1 small chicken in pieces, with skin
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh dill
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup yogurt OR sour cream
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brown sugar
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Dash of paprika/tabasco

1. Boil the chicken with the skin on (keeps the meat moist) till done. Once cool, discard the skin and shred the meat roughly.
2. Mix the mayo, yogurt, lemon juice, brown sugar, dill, salt, pepper and paprika. Keep aside.
3. Combine in a large bowl the shredded chicken, celery, green onions, dried cranberries and walnuts.
4. Pour over the mayo-yogurt mixture into the chicken mixture and thoroughly mix the two. You can add more mayo or yogurt if you need it wetter. Check for enough paprika and salt!
5. My favorite way of enjoying this is the way
Ree does, by layering some baby spinach leaves on toasted bread, squirt on some honey-mustard, pile on the chicken salad, and stuff into face.

Thus fortified, I was all geared up for my adventures in Chinatown! The place makes me feel like a complete tourist every time, because there is so much I don't know ... but I love it! I took my girlfriend on the mandatory Canal Street crawl, where we browsed through a sea of knock-off designer handbags. Can someone explain to me how these places get raided every few months, but always keep coming back? How come nothing seems to have changed? There didn't seem to be a decline in the number of people trying to whisper "you want handbag?" as we walked by. As far as I'm concerned, I think Canal Street makes for great tourist shopping, but am just curious to know how they get away with it! Anyone? Do tell.

Then it was up Bowery Street, turning off into the little side streets whenever we spotting something of interest. We wandered into one of the restaurant supply stores there, and I wanted to pay a viewing fee because it felt like walking into a great old museum! A treasure trove of quirky supplies for any kind of asian restaurant, like ginormous woks, steamers, ladles of every size, strainers, sushi making instruments, serving platters ... you name it (if you can actually name everything in one of these stores, my hat's off to you, because I couldn't!).

My first favorite moment of the day came as we were walking along and saw this large crowd of people huddling together in front of this chinese grocery store. On closer inspection, my heart started racing. There, in all their "stinky" glory, were boxes upon boxes of durian! Yes! The very same durian that makes my Anthony Bourdain moan with pleasure and makes Andrew Zimmern almost puke. This was my first experience with durian, so I elbowed my way through to the front of the crowd to get a good whiff of this offensive-yet-allegedly-addictive fruit. But to my surprise, I didn't think it was that strong of a smell. Huh. Very strange. Sure, it had that slightly rotten-esque aroma, but nothing too crazy to handle. I was under the impression that this stuff could wipe out a neighborhood with its smell, but in reality I didn't think it was bad at all! The seller did mention that it had been frozen, so maybe that cut down the strength of the smell? I hung around hoping that I could get a free sample, but no such luck. Since I was on a budget, I decided to forgo buying one for $7 (for something I may not even like), but maybe I will next time. I'm still thinking about it and wondering about the taste, so I must go for it the next time I spot it. Done deal!

We stopped in to check out some chinese bakeries along our walk, and I've decided that next time I come here on an empty stomach! Everything looked so new and tempting ... and cheap! Steamed buns stuffed with all kinds of goodies, sweet puffy breads, and tantalizing sweets. My second favorite moment of that day came when we ventured into the Double Crispy Bakery, and there in front of me were fresh and hot egg custard tarts. I used to have these very often while I was living in Toronto, thanks to a good friend of mine (of Hong Kong origin) who introduced me to the fascinating world of dim sum. For nostalgia's sake, I decided to try one from this bakery. One bite and I almost started jumping up & down like a giddy schoolgirl! This was the best egg custard tart. EVER. Warm. Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, with just the right amount of egginess and sweetness (not too much). It was the most popular item in that bakery, so you know I'm not the only one who thinks that. I could've eaten a dozen of those by myself, if there weren't other witnesses around.

It was the perfect bite with which to finish off my trip to Chinatown. Needless to say, I'll be back. I can't stay away too long. It's like my drug.


Doppelganger said...

Hahaha! I love that you actually sound a trifle disappointed that the durian didn't stink quite as bad as you had expected! :D And you sound like the perfect hostess/tour guide to Manhattan, so I'm booking my trip with you whenever I make it to the east coast!

Anonymous said...

Love the addition of cranberries and walnuts for this chicken salad. My daughter would love it!

Anonymous said...

The Chicken Salad sandwich recipe looks very appetizing. Will definitely try it out.

Muneeba said...

Shai, I WAS a little disappointed abt the durian not being the ultimate stinky fruit that I thought it would be! But that's nothing compared to my disappointment for not having tasted it :p

5 Star Foodie, do let me know if your daughter enjoys this chicken salad recipe ... I gotta say, the cranberries and walnuts are MY fav things abt this recipe too!

Anonymous said...

wow..amazing durian didnt smell? i've actually heard tht from all durian lovers but not having tried it n saying tht... hmm!!