Many chicken salad recipes feature almonds, which are so expensive that I rarely buy them. However, peanuts are very reasonably priced at Asian markets. Stock them in your pantry, as they're often a good substitute for more expensive nuts.
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar or 1/3 cup white vinegar
2 ramen noodle seasoning packets (reserved from ramen noodle packages used in salad)
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cubed chicken breasts or thighs
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 head Napa cabbage, cut into very thin slivers
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat
Three 3-ounce packages oriental- or chicken-flavored ramen noodles, broken
How to Make It
In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together first 6 marinade ingredients. In a medium-size bowl, toss chicken with 1/4 cup marinade and marinate for 1 hour.
Heat sesame oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, without stirring, until nicely browned on one side, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir and cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center, 5 to 8 more minutes. (If you're short on time, cook chicken immediately after tossing it with marinade.)
Transfer cooked chicken to a large bowl, and add remaining salad ingredients; toss to combine. Pour remaining marinade over salad and toss until everything is well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours, or overnight, to let the flavors develop.