Spicy Chicken Salad with Papaya

Joyce Goldstein loves the surprise of sweet and hot flavors—chilled papaya with unexpected heat from a ginger and crushed red pepper dressing. Note that she cooks the chicken for this salad on the bone; it' more flavorful that way. Marinating the chicken overnight in the refrigerator makes it even tastier.Plus: More Chicken Recipes and Tips

Spicy Chicken Salad with Papaya
Photo: © Reed Davis


  • 1 1/2 cups peanut or canola oil

  • 5 teaspoons crushed red pepper

  • 6 quarter-size slices of peeled fresh ginger, smashed, plus 2 tablespoons grated ginger

  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed

  • Zest strips from 1 orange

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 6 chicken breast halves on the bone (10 to 12 ounces each), skinned

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot

  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 large red papaya (about 2 pounds)—peeled, seeded, cut into 3/4-inch dice and chilled

  • 3/4 pound mixed peppery greens, such as watercress, arugula and mizuna, tough stems discarded

  • 1/2 cup torn mint leaves

  • 1/3 cup torn Thai or Italian basil leaves


  1. In a small skillet, combine 1 cup of the peanut oil with 4 teaspoons of the crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat, swirling the skillet until the pepper is sizzling, about 2 minutes. Pour the seasoned oil into a large glass baking dish and add the smashed ginger, garlic and orange zest. Let cool slightly, then add the sesame oil, five-spice powder and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice. Add the chicken breasts and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of lemon juice with the grated ginger, shallot, brown sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of peanut oil until emulsified. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

  3. Preheat the broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat. Drain the chicken breasts, scraping off most of the marinade but leaving on some of the crushed red pepper, and transfer to a baking sheet. Broil the chicken for about 35 minutes, turning frequently, until golden and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let cool. With your fingers, pull the chicken apart into large pieces and add to a large bowl. Pour any accumulated cooking juices into a bowl and spoon off the fat.

  4. Add the reserved juices and half the vinaigrette to the chicken, toss well and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Fold in the papaya and season with salt and pepper.

  5. In another large bowl, toss the greens with the mint, basil and remaining vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to plates or a large platter. Mound the chicken and papaya salad on the greens and serve immediately.

Suggested Pairing

This dish is a contrast of hot but subtle spices and smooth tropical fruit. Cool the spices and echo the exotic papaya with a fruit-driven New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Alternatively, consider a beer, perhaps a Summer Ale.

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