Colourful and filling, this Oriental Chicken Pasta Salad is good warm or cold.
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 90: Open Sesame! There’s magic in a well-written recipe

Oriental Chicken Pasta Salad

I’m a sucker for the written word. Alliteration, puns, clever dialogue, elegant description — if it brings a smile, tickles my imagination or gives me something to ponder, I’m sold.

Before I met Dan in the summer of ’99, I found myself reading the Journal’s sports pages and smiling over his cheeky brand of sarcasm. I agreed to our first date (a blind date, we were set up by my nanny and, yes, that is a true story) in part because of a Dec. 29, 1998, column he wrote about then-Oiler Janne Niinimaa. Here’s an excerpt:

“Simply put, he does not put the puck anywhere simply. In his world, Kenner’s Easy-Bake Oven would be replaced by Mensa’s Plutonium-Powered, 16-setting Convection Rotisserie Broiler. A five-foot pass down the boards is to be sneered at when there is a spin-around 45-foot backhand saucer up the middle crying out to be attempted. There’s nothing basic about him, not even his name. He leads the team in superfluous vowels. But, given his current adventures with vulcanized rubber, the coaching staff have spelled it out for him.”

(Dan would like me to include here that later on the day that column appeared in the newspaper, Niinimaa did in fact score on his own empty net. But I digress.)

Anyway, back in the early ’90s when I was still learning my way around the kitchen, I ran across a simple yet lovely description of sesame oil in an Anne Lindsay cookbook. It read: “Do try it. A little added at the end of a stir-fry or to a salad gives a sensation of richness with only a small amount of oil.”

While not on par with finding my soul-mate and best friend, those sentences did permanently change my list of grocery staples (I get a little nervous whenever we get low on sesame oil, rice vinegar or gingerroot). As well, the recipe for Oriental Chicken Pasta Salad that it accompanied became — for a very long time — my best fancy dish for guests and potlucks.

I hadn’t made it in a very long time, but including it in this project seemed to make good sense. After all, the elements that make up our basic list of grocery staples have really proven their value in using up the one-offs.

And it’s pretty cool to revisit a dish I used to make “for special” which can be tossed together with ingredients that are on hand. And its “specialness” wasn’t compromised in the slightest.

Kitchen Castoff Used

No castoffs today, just a nice ramble down memory lane.

Colourful and filling, this Oriental Chicken Pasta Salad is good warm or cold.
Colourful and filling, this Oriental Chicken Pasta Salad is good warm or cold.

This is how we did it


  • 1½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch, julienne strips
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp minced gingerroot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 2 peppers (red, green, or both), sliced into thin strips
  • ½ lb snow peas (optional) or asparagus
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil


In a bowl, combine the vinegar, soy sauce (we use tamari), grated ginger, garlic and sugar. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water, as per package directions, until tender but firm. Drain, rinse and place in a large salad bowl.

Heat some olive oil in a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Cook the chicken, stirring often until fully cooked, usually 3 – 5 minutes depending on the size of the strips. Transfer the cooked chicken into the bowl with the pasta.

Heat a little more oil in the pan, and add the peppers, carrots and asparagus (if using). Stir-fry until crisp-tender, 3 – 5 minutes. Add to the bowl with the pasta and chicken.

Pour the reserved marinade into the pan, along with a ½ cup of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes. The sauce will start to reduce a bit. If using snow peas, put them into the marinade for the last minute, then cover and cook.

Pour the warm marinade over the pasta mixture, then stir in the sesame oil and mix thoroughly. It’s very good warm, and still quite enjoyable reheated or served cold.

Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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1 thought on “Day 90: Open Sesame! There’s magic in a well-written recipe”

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