My Mango Chicken Salad is a showcase of global flavors. It’s seasoned with exotic spices and finished with toasted coconut and a sweet-and-sour Tamarind dressing. It’s easy to see the Latin and Asian influences in this simple combination.
However, as tropical as this salad seems to be, I think it’s more than just a fusion of culinary styles. I’d say it’s more accurate to call this combination the type of sophisticated urban food that perfectly reflects the way we eat in California. Despite its global inclinations, I prefer to think of this salad as California Cuisine. More specifically Southern California Cuisine. In fact, this salad tastes an awful lot like Los Angeles.
LA is a vibrant cultural center that boasts an eclectic food scene. New York and San Francisco may get a lot more recognition, but I think there’s no better culinary window on the world than right here in Southern California. I developed this Mango Chicken Salad to highlight the great diversity of my hometown.
What differentiates the Los Angeles food scene from many of the other great culinary cities is our eclectic embrace of divergent ethnic communities. Places like Koreatown, Thai Town and Little Armenia are all busting at the seams; each claiming boundaries the other culture equally embraces. Spreading these culinary influences across the shared geographic grid of the urban monster we all call home is what defines Southern California Cuisine.
Well, that and our Mediterranean climate, which is ideal for growing much of the produce that defines the way California eats. Our access to the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world, also shapes the way we think about food in Los Angeles. Global influences on our culinary culture are further enhanced by the close proximity to one of the largest ports in the country. Giving our markets easy access to exotic produce, livestock and spices from around the world.
Mango Chicken Salad with Coconut and Tamarind
Of course you don’t have to live here to enjoy Southern California Cuisine. So I’ve included my recipe for Mango Chicken Salad with Coconut and Tamarind. I’m sure there’s a way to make this simple salad reflect the way you eat and where you live, too.
Note: Tamarind is a sour-tasting tropical fruit that grows in large brown pods. Many ethnic markets sell tamarind in jars as a prepared paste. You may also find it sold as pods. In which case you can easily make your own paste. However, if you prefer you can substitute the tamarind paste with extra lime juice and a splash of white vinegar in place of the water, then follow the Mango Chicken Salad recipe as written.