mains, salads

chinatown turkey salad.

I don’t know how everyone’s Thanksgiving holidays go, but ours go a little something like this. We begin with the best of intentions. We roast a giant turkey with loads of side dishes and desserts, and every time a food item gets called into question with the inevitable “but there’s four of us: do we really need all that?” it gets answered with “but it’s okay, because we’ll have leftovers!” Thanksgiving happens. wonderful piles of food are eaten, and we are thrilled. That evening, we are thrilled with our turkey sandwiches. The next day, we are happy, but not thrilled. By the following day, we’re noticably less thrilled and one of us is rifling through takeout menus to find anything – anything – which does not resemble our Thanksgiving meal. 

I say rifle no more, my friends; hands off those takeout menus.  For I have made for you a thing which will satisfy your secret need for anti-thanksgiving flavors while at the same time using some of your precious leftovers. it’s hearty, yet light, so you won’t feel like you’re adding to those holiday pounds. The vegetables and greens in here will make you feel good about yourself, rather than wanting to unbutton your pants and sink deep into the couch for a nap. You don’t need this salad because you hate Thanksgiving; on the contrary, you need it because you love Thanksgiving and don’t want to ruin the holiday by dulling your taste buds with the same flavors.

This comes from a recipe called “Chinatown Chicken Salad,” and I’ve been wanting to make it for over a year now, and just never got around to it. I was thinking it would make the perfect salad to de-Thanksgiving your taste buds, because it’s such a polar opposite from what you’ve most likely been eating. All it requires is a few extra produce things purchased either during your Thanksgiving grocery shop, or when you got out the following day. You can use the leftover turkey you know you’ll have, and if you buy some extra fresh green beans, throw them in too. Maybe you have a veggie tray; grab some red pepper slivers from there. Lots of you have nuts set out to snack on, so use some of the peanuts (or cashews, if you have those) to top it all off. As for the dressing, a bit of fresh ginger added to a few Asian things I keep as staples in my pantry, and you’re set. Nothing to it.

Even though you’ll be using traditionally spiced turkey for this, the flavor of the ingredients and the tanginess of the dressing really do their job at covering up that flavor profile and melding it into this one, so no need to worry that it will clash; it won’t. And if you’re a vegetarian, go for it without meat; with everything else in here, you won’t feel like something is missing.

Will I be making this for my family aprés-Thanksgiving? Absolutely; I’ve already informed them that this is on the menu for that Saturday. Because I have no idea how many people you have shacking up with you or coming over to visit, I’m making it easy and giving you measurements for the salad and dressing for four people, in quantities which make it extremely easy to multiply and divide (1/4 cup of this, 1 of that, and so on) according to how many you’re making this for.

Adapted from Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson. A book which I dearly love and have a special attachment to. Find out why in the cookbook library.

Chinatown Turkey Salad*

for the dressing:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 teaspoons seasoned rice wine vinegar (or use regular rice wine vinegar, if you wish)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake**

for the salad:

  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped into ribbons
  • 4 cups turkey, shredded or chopped, and cooled
  • 4 scallions, slit in half vertically and julienned
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, chopped into 1-inch sections
  • 1 cup dry-roasted peanuts (I used the lightly salted sort), rough chopped or left as they are
  • handful of cilantro leaves, for serving

*obviously, this is easy to do anytime, not just after Thanksgiving. You can roast up a turkey tenderloin, or you can use chicken breasts. Don’t feel like this should be confined to times when you’re using up leftovers; this is some high-flavor, high-quality salad here.

**whether you include the red pepper flake in your dressing is largely dependent on your salad audience’s tolerance for spice. Adding something like that to dressing sort of melts the heat in, and there’s no going back. If you’ve got guests who don’t want all that heat, leave it out, opting to use a sprinkle as garnish on your finished salads for those who do like a little kick.

Make your dressing:

In a medium-sized lidded jar (I like to use a glass canning jar due to the snug fit of the lid),Add your fresh ginger, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and vegetable oil. Tightly close lid and shake until homogenous. Add your red pepper flake (as much or as little as you like), shake a few more times, and place in your fridge to chill.

Make your salad:

Truly, at this point the instructions have given you most of the information on what you should do; now it’s just a matter of plating. Divide your romaine ribbons on to 4 large plates. Next, divide your red pepper strips, green bean pieces, and bean sprouts in the same fashion. Top this with the turkey, then sprinkle each with the julienned scallion.

Toss the peanuts overtop, and chop your cilantro, or not; you can simple remove leaf from stem and toss a few on each salad, you choose.

Remove your dressing from the fridge, give it a good few shakes. Using a regular spoon, drizzle a few spoonfuls over each salad and serve immediately.

Remember; this will yield 4 generously portioned salads, but for smaller appetites, you could possibly stretch it to 6. If you’re concerned about the quantity of dressing (I think it’s perfect for 4 salads, but some like a little more dressing), simply double the recipe for the dressing.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats November 9, 2012 at 9:19 am

    What a great idea! I could honestly eat thanksgiving leftovers for days, but the idea of eating something a little healthier sounds appealing 😉

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Thanks! You know, there’s a part of me (the part that wishes she was 110 pounds) that would eat thanksgiving leftovers for days and enjoy it too. 🙂 Every year it’s different, and it’s funny to see who surrenders first to the “i can’t eat any more of this” feeling. Definitely if you can stick it out and love it, I say go for it; if you need a breather from it, this is a nice little palate-cleanser.

  • Reply elizabeth November 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Definitely passing this on to my in-laws (we’re having dinner there this year) as I know my BIL and SIL will definitely want to make something like this. Gorgeous!

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Elizabeth, i’m so excited that you’ll be sharing the recipe! I made this for four, and i ate all of the servings (lunch/dinner/lunch/dinner, two days). LOVED it. I hope your family feels the same!

  • Reply Deb November 9, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Oh I agree, Thanksgiving leftovers get boring very quickly! And a salad bursting with fresh veggies is the perfect a solution to the carb overload from holiday eating. An exceptional recipe!

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

      thanks, Deb! Carb overload is an excellent way to put it; i think that’s what ends up getting us in the end. All the carbs from the potatoes and bread gets to be a little too much, so it’s nice to feel like you can have a break from it (and still eat all that turkey!)

  • Reply natalie November 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

    screw thanksgiving, after a week of overindulging i’m looking for ANYTHING that has vegetables and is decidedly less terrible for me… and this fits the bill… Maybe i’ll give a test run with some rotisserie chicken today… ya know, to test it out before i make it for my thanksgiving leftovers 🙂

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

      don’t we all basically like, quit eating after thanksgiving? I do…it’s the annual “i can’t eat anything which is not a veggie or fruit until you all come back for christmas” promise. you should definitely test this with rotisserie chicken; it’s good to be able to tell the other thanksgiving feasters what you’re doing to their leftovers and that it’s already been “cleared” by your taste buds.

  • Reply Ashley November 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    You are so right! The first meal of leftovers is divine. The second involves waning interest in all-things-Thanksgiving. The third and any subsequent meals are a matter of determination not to waste the leftovers you thought you wanted all year long. Chinatown salad sounds amazing, with the added bonus of not putting me into a stupor.

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

      you made me laugh: it DOES turn into like, the drive to finish things just like you were running some sort of carb marathon, right? “WE GOTTA GET THROUGH THIS!!!” 🙂 This salad is guaranteed to keep the stupor away, for sure. I ate it repeatedly after I made/photographed it, and i felt great after. I felt like I had a meal, but i wasn’t subsequently glued to the sofa because of it.

  • Reply Sharyn Dimmick November 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    This looks and sounds delicious, perfect for a couple of days after Thanksgiving when the pie is gone.

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:34 am

      and everyone starts to get cranky when the pie is gone.

  • Reply Kim Bee November 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Seriously yummy meal. I could totally dig this for leftovers.

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:35 am

      thanks kim! i DID dig this for leftovers: instead of planning our thanksgiving meal (like i should have been doing), i kept thinking about this as future leftovers for it. 🙂

  • Reply Brianne November 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

    YUM! I’m going to Albuquerque with the guy for Thanksgiving this year. Kevin’s mom usually makes hot and sour soup with the turkey leftovers; this salad would complement that so well!

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 10:37 am

      man, total shout-out to Kevin’s mom! that’s the most interesting way to use thanksgiving leftovers i’ve ever heard of (from a normal person and not a magazine/food website. She must be awesome! If you end up making the salad, let me know if it’s an appropriate side to her soup.
      now i super want hot and sour soup made with turkey.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog November 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I love that we’re a lot alike. I find a recipe, mark the page with a fancy brightly colored tab, then forget I ever did such a thing until I vaguely remember doing so months down the road. I really do have the best intentions, and then time comes along and snatches what little I have left away and, poof, I forget about it.

    This salad looks fresh and crisp. Way better than takeout any day.

    • Reply shannon November 12, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      do you use brightly colored tabs also? we all start out with the best laid plans with cooking, i think…other dumb stuff always gets in the way. too many good recipes and cookbooks, too little time. I have recipes i wanted to make LAST pre-thanksgiving that i STILL won’t get time to make this year. oy vey!

      WAY: and who wants takeout salad? not i…i’d much rather do it myself, but i like to do it pretty. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup November 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    As you know, Canadian Thanksgiving has long passed. But I really want this salad. So I’m thinking I might make a chicken on American Thanksgiving, and then use the leftovers for the salad. It will be like I’m celebrating with all of you. Besides, a salad like this will keep me healthy for making gingerbread houses and stuff…

    • Reply shannon November 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      i really wish we were celebrating this holiday together; i had no idea until this year that there was a date difference. Maybe next year i’ll get my act together and celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with you as well.
      it’s important, probably, that you be in tip-top shape for Ginger 2012. do you have more gingerbread houses to make at work? OMG IS THAT LIKE, A THING YOU HAVE TO DO ALL MONTH LONG?? holy lord.

  • Reply Emma November 15, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Oh boy, have I missed a few recipes. And don’t they look tasty! This is something that I would probably drown in peanut sauce…. you know, the sweet kind that is served with spring rolls?

    Or maybe I would turn this into a spring roll! Mmmmmmm. So looking forward to Thanksgiving!! (even though it’s my least favorite holiday, since it’s filled with all of my least favorite food, since I am stupidly picky)

    • Reply shannon November 16, 2012 at 6:33 am

      google reader = blessing and curse. blessing: catching up with posts i may have permanently missed because i get distracted. curse: finding out i have missed 483 posts in a 24-hour period. so stressful!
      peanut sauce! that’s an excellent idea. with the peanuts topping this, you get a great crunch, but it doesn’t cross over to ‘mmmm, peanutty’ in the way it would with a peanut dressing; and there’s so many other bright flavors (like a spring roll), that it wouldn’t weigh it down or be overkill. you’re just full of ideas! (scribblescribble)

      When you said that about spring rolls, i thought the same thing; it really would make a good spring roll, and everything would fit in there nicely. I’ve never made spring rolls myself (i’ve just never tried but it’s on my to do list), and i’d like to see how these translate.

      is it some sort of federal offense to say thanksgiving is your least favorite holiday because of the food? 🙂 although mom and i were talking about the menu last night, and it does – when you list it all out – sound big and heavy. You should just go for it and host “Emma’s Renegade Thanksgiving” and do only the foods you feel are appropriate. I’d actually love to see what you came up with. 🙂

      • Reply Emma November 16, 2012 at 7:07 am

        A friend and I had lobsters for Thanksgiving two years ago! And all sorts of other gourmand delicacies. She has since moved away, sadly, but I’ll gnaw on some lobster meat in spirit;)

        • Reply shannon November 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm

          now THAT’S my emma. lobstahs for Thanksgiving. plus all the other fancy food. I’ve read that lobsters as a main dish is probably loads more accurate in terms of the first thanksgiving (pilgrim-style) than turkey, anyway.

  • Reply Feast Magazine, October 2013: root vegetable lettuce wraps + citrus miso dressing. | A Periodic Table October 1, 2013 at 10:24 am

    […] my little recipe for Root Vegetable Lettuce Wraps with Citrus Miso Dressing. It reminds me of that Chinatown Turkey Salad I made last November: totally seasonal, but with a freshness to it that’s perfect for right […]

  • Leave a Reply to shannon Cancel Reply