[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Lunches at SE HQ are usually hodgepodge meals that start at 11:30 and end a 4. A few bites of sandwich to start maybe, then perhaps some leftover prime rib, or new cookies or potato chips to sample, and more sandwich because hey, there's only a couple bites left so you may as well swallow your dignity and finish the damn thing.

But I digress.

The beauty of the many-part lunch is mixing and matching what you never otherwise would, like cold leftover roast chicken with some fresh bowls of assorted items from Xi'an Famous Foods. What to do with leftover cold chicken when you can't make chicken salad because of certain mayo-haters? Why not take a play from Chichi Wang's guide to making use of Xi'an leftovers and make an even better chicken salad?

The reasoning is simple: virtually anything you order from XFF comes with an overabundance of fiery, meaty, addictively spiced sauce that pools in the bowl after you've finished your meal—sauce that we hate to waste if we could repurpose it elsewhere. And chicken—as well as poultry like it—is mild enough to take them all.

The result gets close to a Sichuan cold appetizer of poached chicken tossed with chili oil, black vinegar, and Sichuan peppercorns (we have a recipe with turkey here). The Xi'an-ified version leans more toward a sticky meat stock with jabs of cumin, but the concept of the same: chicken salad spiced up to 11.

The salad above is a mix of sauces from some cumin lamb, some vinegary cucumbers, and some spicy beef noodles, and they work together pretty darn well. Sad leftover chicken, we love you again. And we'll be getting some extra XFF sauce for lunch next time, no doubt.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the New York editor and ice cream maker in residence at Serious Eats. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.


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