For the moment, I’ve decided not to color my gray hair. And I’m posting a recipe for a vegan chicken salad with a ghetto fabulous satay sauce! Believe it or not those things are related, and I’ll explain why.
So, into the wayback machine! It’s 1994, Pulp Fiction is turning profanity into an art form and pre-pre-hipsters are struggling with dial-up to get on the World Wide Web. I’m 18 and wandering around a surprisingly gritty neighborhood with the University of Pittsburgh in it, a sheltered small-town arrival trying desperately to look like Uma Thurman (it was hilarious) and do anything other than socialize with my peers or go to classes. There was nothing wrong with my peers or classes, by the way; I’m just an introvert with a formal education allergy.
One of the things I did instead was have lunch at a little Southeast Asian-ish hole in the wall called the Spice Islands Tea House, which I’m happy to see is still going hundreds of years later. I’ll never forget the first time I went in, because my mind was so thoroughly blown, and saw the unfinished wood floors, incense smoke drifting up from a mysterious altar along the wall, and well-worn furniture, not one piece of which matched. I decided instantly that I never wanted to leave this wonderful and slightly terrifying place, and I hadn’t even seen the menu yet.
The menu! All I remember is everything seemed to have “peanut sauce” (what??) on, in or beside it, and there might have been some mango lurking around there, too. I think I ended up ordering some fairly tame chicken-y thing, but what really stuck with me about that meal was the salad. It had peanut sauce on it as dressing, in italics. Until that moment I thought salad dressing was ranch unless it was blue cheese if you wanted to be fancy or Italian if you couldn’t get anything else, and laws of nature prevented peanut butter from uncoupling with chocolate for any reason other than sandwiches. This whole idea that peanut butter could be part of a savory spicy garlicy gingery sauce, on salad…I saw the world open up before my very eyes. It was a total thought revolution, like the first time the Beatles dropped acid only with me instead of the Beatles and satay sauce instead of drugs. I’ve never been the same since.
Youth: that magic time when eating a salad can make you question your entire worldview. It’s exciting, everything’s new, your head is spinning with fresh ideas and you think tattoos in highly visible places are a good idea…I enjoyed it, but I don’t miss it. I still have the ideas and the tattoos, but now they’re a little softer around the edges. Time and a crapload of life experience chilled me out considerably, and I’m glad it did. I like being a person who’s lived long enough to know a few things. Do I want to pretend I still have the hair of someone who might be shocked by salad? Nah. For now, I’m leaving the grays alone.
So all this thinking about what a nitwit I was when I was young makes me want to revisit that first shocking satay-sauced salad, now that I’m old enough and cool enough to relax and enjoy it. Also, now that I’m old and cool, I don’t have to do everything by the book. This sauce I made isn’t anything like an authentic satay sauce, but its ghetto fabulousness captures all my favorite satay flavors, quick and easy-like, with a little extra spiciness courtesy of Sriracha. I used Gardein vegan “chick’n” strips in my salad, but use whatever you’re fond of. Or just apply the sauce directly to the salad! You get bonus points for eating your salad with chopsticks.
Vegan Chicken Salad with Sriracha Satay Sauce
about 12 cups of whatever salad stuff you like/have on hand. I used:
roughly 9 cups of Power Greens
half an onion, sliced
about 2 cups of sliced red, orange and yellow bell pepper
a big carrot, made into thin strips with a vegetable peeler
1 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs peanut butter
1 – 2 tsp Sriracha
a pinch or two of ground ginger (use fresh if you have it)
some Mrs. Dash or another salt-free seasoning to taste
1/2 tsp olive oil
a few pinches of garlic powder
half a bag (196g) Gardein Meatless Chick’n Strips
1. Get all your salad stuff ready and mix it up or layer it how you like it on a serving platter or individual plates.
2. Combine the sauce ingredients and stir them together in a small saucepan over low heat. When I’m adding the Sriracha and other seasonings, I start with smaller amounts and add more as I taste.
3. Heat the olive oil and a few shakes of garlic powder in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the strips and get them nice and brown and crispy on the outside, which takes maybe 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the sauce. Toss everything around and get the strips nicely coated with sauce. Put the strips on your salad and brace yourself for some intense deliciousness.
Per serving, about 212g: 243 calories (120 calories from fat); 13.3g fat (20%)(2.3g sat, 0.0g trans); 0mg cholesterol (0%); 316mg sodium (13%); 13g carbohydrates (4%); 4.6g fiber (19%); 20.2g protein; Vitamin A 84%; Calcium 9%; Vitamin C 164%; Iron 26%, Potassium 16%