March 5th, 2011

Whenever I go to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, I go straight to Wolfgang Puck Express to get his famous Chinois Chicken Salad, which he regularly serves at his Asian fusion restaurant, Chinois (also located in Santa Monica). Unlike the typical Chinese chicken salad, which has a sweet vinegar dressing, Wolfgang Puck’s dressing has a kick to it, which comes from the use of ground mustard. Not only does the ground mustard add a spicy twist to the salad, but it is also good for improving your metabolism by stimulating digestion.

After going on a hunt for Wolfgang Puck’s recipe, I discovered that his famous salad has a lot of anti-inflammatory ingredients. Simply put, anti-inflammatory foods reduce symptoms of inflammation (obviously), including pain, swelling, red coloration, and loss of movement. But did you know that anti-inflammatory foods also reduce your risk for chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease? That’s right! Consuming pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, high-fat meats, and fast food actually increases inflammation due to trans and saturated fat levels. Consequently, eating anti-inflammatory foods reduces the risks of inflammation, as well as the risks of being diagnosed with a chronic disease.

The Chinois salad gets its anti-inflammatory power from green cabbage, snow peas, and green onion. Green cabbage, having the lowest fat and calorie content of any vegetable, can add fiber and vitamin C to any meal. The bitterness that comes from cabbage actually has a lot of cancer prevention benefits. The phytochemicals found in cabbage, also known as indoles, are currently being studied for their ability to convert an estrogen-like hormone that is linked to the development of breast cancer into a safer form of estrogen. Like green cabbage, snow peas are also high in vitamin C, making it a key player in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods. The French word for snow pea, mange-tout, means “eat it all,” and that is exactly what you should do with snow peas. Their edible flat pods provide lots of iron and manganese. The only downside to snow peas is that you have to use them ASAP after purchasing them from the store. Thanks to its high level of chromium, green onion is also a highly anti-inflammatory ingredient that specifically regulates glucose levels. When eaten regularly, green onion can lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels while reducing the risk of developing colon cancer.

I added a few of my own touches to make this salad even healthier. Adding asparagus to the salad provides even more anti-inflammatory benefits to it. It ranks very high on the list of antioxidant foods (right next to cabbage actually). I also used Trader Joe’s reduced guilt multigrain chips instead of the usual crispy wonton strips. Instead of being deep-fried and high in calories and fat like wontons, these baked multigrain chips are made from corn, rice, and whole wheat, and still add a crunchy texture to the salad. And, like most of my recipes, I added avocado to for some additional nutritional value (and taste! Yum!). Check back next week for a more in-depth look at avocados for my St. Patrick’s Day recipe. There will be plenty of green to celebrate and to promote this year’s National Nutrition Month theme: “Let Color Be Your Guide.”

Chinois Chicken Salad
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck
Serves 4

3 tsp ground mustard
1/2 cup TJ’s Soy Ginger salad dressing
1 ½ lbs TJ’s Just Chicken
10 oz. TJ’s shredded green cabbage
1 cup romaine lettuce, cut into ¼ inch julienne strips
10 snow peas, cut into ¼ inch julienne strips
8 asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 large avocado, cubed
2 cups TJ’s reduced guilt multigrain chips, torn into strips
8 green onions, sliced diagonally
3 tsp sesame seeds

Mix the mustard and dressing in a small bowl. Set aside.

Shred the chicken meat. Combine the chicken, cabbage, romaine, snow peas, asparagus, avocado, and chips in a bowl and toss with the dressing. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds.

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