Sunday, 11 October 2015

Spicy Chicken Salad - Yo Sushi Style

I do love a bit of sushi and sashimi - and yet if I go to Yo Sushi!, I can't resist a bowl of their spicy chicken salad whilst I'm there!

So, one not-so-fine Saturday afternoon, after a discussion about edible seaweed, I was craving a bit of Japanese food and got it into my head that I really fancied a Yo Sushi! style chicken salad. Not living in the vicinity of a Yo Sushi!, I did a bit of scouting around the internet for a recipe... and a bit more... and for once, it really wasn't very successful, so I had to make up my own!

Apparently, they have a cookbook (which I don't have), and I was able to find the ingredients (minus quantities) online on Eat My Books - however... maybe it's an old book, or they've changed things now, as they just didn't seem quite right compared with the colour and flavour of the chicken I was used to eating at Yo Sushi, and the other ingredients in the salad. I'm accustomed to a spicy, orange-coloured, highly-flavoured chicken on a bed of lettuce, julienned carrot, edamame beans and a few bean sprouts etc., but I couldn't find anything that convinced me it would recreate this. I couldn't even find a Japanese name for the salad - although I'm quite familiar with Japanese food - and to be honest, although delicious, the flavours of the chicken had always seemed a little out of sorts with my experience of Japanese food.

Turns out there's a reason for that! 

After a general appeal for ideas about the recipe, the lovely Jayson Gillespie told me he happened to know someone in a high place, who just might know the answer, that he could ask. When he came back to me with the answer - Kimchi - I didn't believe him! I mean, Kimchi is Korean! Initially, I couldn't decide whether he was having me on, or whether his 'man in the know' was having him on, or what...

My 'antique' kimchi... nicely matured!
However, there *is* a kimchi-marinated salmon on Yo Sushi!'s menu, and the colour and the flavour of the chicken I was used to, did match up with the pungent chilli-garlic-ginger flavours of kimchi, AND I just so happened to have a (rather ancient) jar of my own home-made kimchi in the fridge (I think the Koreans are right - it really does last forever!! If you want to make your own, its actually very easy - my recipe is here).

Plus - simplest marinade ever! Just blitz up some kimchi and mix it with the chicken? Well, I know it's going to taste good, even if it's not actually the real deal, so I'm up for that! And it sounded much tastier to me than sweet chilli sauce mixed with sake and soy, so off I went and got the chicken marinating while I put together the salad. Obviously, I marinated extra chicken to cook the next day, just to compare of course, scientific research and all that. And what can I say - the whole thing tasted bloody gorgeous, and I upped the quantities from sushi-size, to meal-size, to make a great healthy meal in itself. 

Now, I know not everyone will have kimchi, or want to make it (but it's well worth a go, and it's so delicious and versatile and one of THE healthiest foods on the planet, especially for your gut health - most Koreans eat it every day!), and you'll probably need to go to a decent oriental grocer to get hold of some as supermarkets don't sell it (although Tesco apparently sells some rather dubious sounding 'kimchi paste'), so I have given you an alternative marinade with the flavours of kimchi. However, if you want to buy a packet of chilled kimchi, a little bird tells me that Yo Sushi! uses the Chongga whole cabbage kimchi, which you can find online in a few places. Also, don't feel like you have to go and get edamame/soya beans and beansprouts - you can substitute cucumber, sliced mange-tout / sugar snap peas / snow peas, radishes, julienned courgette and just throw what you like into the salad, it will still be delicious! Use chicken thigh for flavour, moistness and 'authenticity', or chicken breast to cut the calories, or if you prefer it.

Serves two as a meal (or four as a starter, or probably up to six in little Yo Sushi! size bowls!), from 324 calories per serving with chicken breast and kimchi-flavoured spicy marinade, to 414 calories using chicken thigh and kimchi.

Reduce the calorie count by 60 calories a portion if you omit the edamame / soya beans (so from 264 calories) for a 'fast day', if you're doing 5:2.

Without further ado, and with thanks to Jayson for the 'secret' marinade ingredient, here's my take on Spicy Chicken Salad:


For the Spicy Chicken
  • 300g chicken thigh or breast, diced [thigh 483 / breast 330 calories]
  • 1 tsp oil [41]
  • 100g kimchi [48]
  • To make a kimchi-flavour spicy marinade, if you haven't got kimchi: 1/2 to 1 red chilli (to taste, de-seeded), 1/2 inch ginger, 1 garlic clove, 1 spring onion, 1 tsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp fish sauce or light soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free, check label) [22]

For the Salad
  • 160g green lettuce leaves, cut into bite-size pieces (e.g. Cos, Romaine, Gem, around 8 leaves) [26]
  • 1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks (50g, julienned) [13]
  • 90g podded, cooked edamame (soya) beans (take 200g frozen edamame beans in pods, boil 5 minutes in well-salted water. Or Bird's Eye do frozen, podded soya beans) [119]
  • 80g fresh beansprouts [27]
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced diagonally [3]
  • Small handful coriander leaves [2]

For the Salad Dressing
(If you're not counting calories, double up and add extra to taste!)

  • 1 tsp Japanese or light soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free) [4]
  • 2 tsp lime juice [2]
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil [41]
  • 1 tsp honey (if it's quite thick, warm it a little) [16]
  • 1cm fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated [2]


1. Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Either blitz the kimchi into a paste in a food processor, or if you're not using kimchi, then cut the chilli and spring onion into pieces, slice the garlic and ginger, and blitz with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor (if you don't have a food processor, grate the garlic and ginger, and finely chop the chilli and spring onion). If you need to, add a tiny bit of water to loosen the mix slightly, if not using kimchi.

2. Remove visible fat from the chicken, and cut into bite-size pieces around 1 to 1.5 inch dice. Mix thoroughly with marinade and leave for at least one hour if possible, or overnight.

3. Prepare the salad ingredients. If using edamame in pods, boil for 5 minutes in salted water, cool, and pod. Beansprouts can be eaten raw if labelled "ready-to-eat" (wash thoroughly), otherwise blanch in boiling water for 1 minute until hot all the way through, then refresh under cold water and drain, then set aside in a bowl with the other prepared ingredients. You can reserve a little coriander and sliced spring onion to garnish, if you like.

4. Combine the dressing ingredients thoroughly in a small dish with a small whisk or a fork, and set aside until ready to cook the chicken. When you're just about to cook the chicken, toss the salad together with the dressing, and divide between the serving plates, drizzling any remaining dressing on top.

5. Heat the oil in a wok, or good non-stick frying pan, and stir-fry the marinated chicken for a few minutes until cooked all the way through (check the largest piece). Top the salad with the chicken, and garnish with a little coriander and spring onion. Serve immediately, and enjoy (chopsticks and sake optional)!

Can be eaten cold or prepared as a packed lunch too. Simply cool the chicken before adding to the salad, and store the dressing separately and add just before eating, so that it doesn't wilt the lettuce. You can source fresh or jarred kimchi from some oriental grocers, and jarred kimchi online. Jarred kimchi can vary quite a lot, and doesn't taste much like the fresh stuff, and is also incredibly expensive for what it is, in my humble opinion, when it's so cheap to make! You're better to invest in some korean chilli flakes and make your own, as the rest of the ingredients are easily and readily available from normal grocers and supermarkets, and the stuff lasts forever once you've made it! (So far, my record is 14 months and still going!!!). My easy kimchi recipe is here, including a recommendation for appropriate chilli flakes.


  1. Mmm this sounds delightful. Will be giving this a go. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Love this! I have made this a few times now using store bought kimchi defo better than yo sushi!! going to try and make my own kimchi next time!!! Leftovers were really nice on a wrap to!!!


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