Joel Gray’s Chinese Chicken Salad

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Joel Grey (yes, of Cabaret) was such a Chinese-food fan in the early ’70s that he bought himself a wok and took lessons. This salad, adapted from Grey’s long-ago recipe in Mainliner magazine, is quick and easy to make.

Makes 4 servings


  • 2 large, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 large strips of peel from a fresh orange
  • 4 scallions, slivered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch segments
  • 12 oz peanut oil for deep-fat frying
  • 4 oz Chinese rice sticks (ty me fun)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted peanuts
  • Sesame oil


  1. Combine soy, sherry, water, sugar, anise, orange peels in a deep but relatively narrow pot. Heat to boiling and simmer for 10 minutes. Divide chicken breast lobes. Slice each lobe piece across the grain to make chicken fillets about ½ inch thick. Two at time, immerse the pieces (ensure they are fully submerged) in the liquid and poach, covered, 10 to 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through but not tough. Remove to a platter. Poach remaining pieces two at a time. Chop or sliver chicken into small pieces. Cool and reserve poaching liquid.
  2. Heat oil in wok or deep fat fryer to 350 degrees. Throw in one of the rice sticks. If it immediately bursts to the surface and puffs, oil is ready. Throw small handfuls of sticks into the oil, removing to a paper-towel lined platter as soon as they surface. This happens quickly, so you’ll have to work fast.
  3. Cut romaine lettuce into long strips. Toss these with puffed rice sticks, slivered scallions, chicken and peanuts.
  4. Stir an additional ½ cup water into the poaching liquid and stir.
  5. Drizzle a few teaspoons of the poaching liquid over the salad. Drizzle a few drops of sesame oil over all. Toss to coat.

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