No. 88, Popcorn Chicken Salad at Guppy House

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Edwin Goei
Hey, kids: guess what time is it? It's time to restart that Long March known as 100 Favorite Dishes (INSERT YEAR). YEAH!!!

Hey, don't ding us for listicles: Weekly DataLab studies show ustedes love this gimmick, launched in honor of our coming Best Of issue. Besides, it is rather fun to do this for us Forkers--an opportunity to highlight dishes from restaurants we'll never fully review, or secrets from old standbys. Anyhoo, let the march begin...

Can you still call a dish that's half fried chicken a salad? Probably not. But who cares? This, ladies and gents, is the salad you want to eat when you want to say you ate a salad, but you were actually craving something fried and something chicken. I ordered it one night for take-out, opened it at home and to my delight, saw an acre of bite-sized pieces of deep-fried battered chicken covering the entire visible spectrum of the box. What amounts to an entire order of their popcorn chicken tiled my large Styrofoam container, from one corner to the other.

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Just to make sure they got my order right, I dug beneath the layer of chicken. Yup. They didn't forget the salad part; there was enough of the fancy spring mix (frisee, spinach, arugula, etc.) to match the chicken bite-for-bite. But wait, what's this? There's also pieces of fruit in it. I found bits of sweet mangoes, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, raisins, crushed peanuts, and corn kernels commingling with the Thousand-Island-like dressing and the greens.

I realized about then that this the was the dish I should've been ordering from Guppy House all along. I've always enjoyed the Taiwanese-style dive's spice-dusted kernels of popcorn chicken with rice, or by itself as a snack with a big old glass of boba milk tea. But this is a much better way to eat them. The fruit, which is part of the restaurant's shaved ice and ice cream dessert mise-en-place, turned out to be the perfect foil to the chicken's crunch and the salad greens' bitterness. Flavor wise, the sum of its parts becomes greater than the individual components. And though the chicken might outweigh the salad, it's still salad, right? Yes, keep telling yourself that.

The list:

89. Fried Okra at Memphis Soul Cafe & Bar
90. Salted Egg With Bitter Melon & Scrambled Egg at Tasty Noodle House
91. Boysenberry Lemonade from Bautista Creek Local Produce at SOCO Farmers' Market
92. Scallop Carpaccio with Curry Oil and Yuzu Vinaigrette from Cafe Hiro
93. White Board Specials at Taco Adobe
94. Coney Dog at LinX
95. Halal Pizzas from San Giovanni Pizzas
96. Clayuda at El Fortín
97. Lunch Buffet at Dosa Express
98. The Meats at Darya in Orange
99. Panocha at Taquería Zamora
100. Bean-and-Cheese Burrito from Del Taco

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Guppy Tea House

2730 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA

Category: Restaurant

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