I love the Asian Chicken Salad at Panera, so I experimented and came up with the recipe that comes pretty darn close. Just this week I discovered that you can get the actual Panera recipe online, but I actually like this version better.
And it’s so, so simple! Instead of finding a source for the won ton fries (or frying them myself), I just use Ramen noodles. So much easier, and probably lower fat, too. If that’s too many carbs for you, you could just leave them off and put on extra almonds.
Almost-Panera’s Asian Chicken Salad
4 hearts-of-romaine heads
2 handfuls cilantro leaves, chopped
4 cooked chicken breasts, sliced thin (grilled, roasted or poached)
4 green onions, chopped
1 pkg. ramen noodles
1/2 c. sliced or slivered almonds
optional: sesame seeds for garnish
3 packets of Splenda OR 2 T. sugar*
3 T. rice vinegar
1 T. sesame oil
1/4 c. vegetable oil
Prepare the dressing 30 minutes ahead of time by combining the first three ingredients in a food processor or blender. With the blender running, drizzle in the vegetable oil. Set aside.
How to chop romaine:
This is how I like to do it: Start by making one slice down the length of the head, starting about 5” from the stem, going all the way to the loose end. Rotate the head one quarter turn and make a second slice in the same manner. (I like to slice right down the center of the rib.) Then chop perpendicular to the first slices, starting at the loose end and working toward the stem end. Stop 4 or 5” from the stem, and save the uncut part for another use.
Slice the green onions. You may leave the cilantro leaves whole or chop them, whichever you prefer.
In a large bowl combine the lettuce, cilantro, and green onions. Let chill at least 10 minutes. (Longer is better; the lettuce absorbs someof the cilatro and green onion flavors.) Break up the ramen noodles into bite-sized pieces and set aside. At this point, you may hold everything till serving time, if you wish.
To serve, add the chicken, almonds and ramen noodles. Serve in salad bowls and offer the dressing in a pourable container so your guest can add as much dressing as they want. You can also pour the dressing over the top of the salad, toss, and serve immediately.
*You can use either Splenda or sugar with no compromise in taste, but using sugar makes it cling to the greens better.