The next time you get delivery or takeout, don’t throw away those condiments. Use them in your next dinner.
This recipe was inspired by a chef who, according to his fiancée, mixes together takeout condiments — hoisin sauce, nuoc cham, sambal oelek, to name a few — and rubs it on pork or chicken for something that becomes deliciously savory, sweet and spicy.
In that same vein, you could also save those wasabi packets from your Japanese takeout, and whisk them into a tahini dressing to cover a celery-chicken salad.
The combination of wasabi and celery isn’t all that new: It’s similar to a cold appetizer found in Taiwanese-Chinese cuisine, simply called hot mustard celery salad. In the dish’s usual preparation, blanched celery ribs are peeled or have the tough strings pulled out, and are then tossed with a dressing made with hot mustard powder. (The wasabi you often get from Japanese takeout has the same tingly flavor profile as hot mustard powder.)
Think of this dish as a less chunky take on a traditional chicken salad, and one that’s just as quick and (probably) more delicious. The most time-consuming part is cutting the celery into matchsticks and tearing the chicken into small pieces, which allows more of both to be coated. The addition of lime juice pulls this away from your standard tahini dressing: It lends a subtle sweetness while balancing the bitter wasabi. And a note on that: Wasabi’s flavor is strongest when the dressing is first made. The nose-tingling spiciness sort of disappears with time, so add more for a stronger flavor.
Make the recipe as it is, but don’t stop there. Much like a jar of the best marinara sauce, this dressing has endless possibilities. Try it with tofu and celery. Use it on an egg salad or an herby pasta salad — or even a pepper Jack-heavy romaine salad. Or just tuck it into a soft potato roll, and enjoy it at a socially distanced hang.
Chicken and Celery Salad With Wasabi-Tahini Dressing
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 1 hour
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound total)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus more lime wedges, for serving (3 to 4 limes)
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons wasabi paste
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 to 10 celery ribs, plus 1/2 cup celery leaves
Sesame seeds, for serving
1. In a medium pot, cover chicken breasts with about 2 inches of water, and season with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer on low until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and let cool.
2. While the chicken cools, make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, tahini, wasabi paste, garlic, sugar and 1/4 cup water until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
3. Cut celery into 2-inch segments, then cut segments lengthwise into matchsticks and place in a large bowl.
4. Using two forks or hands, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and transfer to the bowl with the celery.
5. Pour dressing over the chicken and celery and toss to coat. Top with celery leaves and sesame seeds, and serve with lime wedges.