Ah, the fast food salad. Perfect for those on a diet and in a hurry and who aren’t very picky and are already at the restaurant with a group and don’t mind dropping some decent change on some lean meat and a handful of greens.
If you fall into that flower-like Venn diagram of compromise, it means you’ve probably made some questionable decisions in your life to get to this place (Or you’re just a mom with kids… which means you’ve definitely made some questionable decisions. Bam! Pow! Splat!). Anyway, Wendy’s wants your sad money, so they rolled out this new thing, the Asian Cashew Chicken Salad.
It’s topped with chicken, edamame, red bell peppers, cucumbers, cashews and *takes deep breath* Marzetti Simply Dressed Light Spicy Asian Chili Vinaigrette dressing *ends deep breath*. Woo whee. That dressing name is so long it looks like a Panic! at the Disco song title, or a Jaden Smith tweet. Plus, it comes in packets and you put it on yourself (Cardio for the day!). It has a light peanut-y balsamic flavor and an escalating spice that initially lets the rest of the ingredients breathe a bit.
The chicken is pretty good—standard grilled fast food chicken, salty and warm. The red bell peppers taste like red bell peppers. Cucumbers are cucumbers. The edamame has burnt spots, because it’s “fire roasted” but there is no roast flavor in them and they kind of sit there helping out a little bit, attempting to round out the taste. The various lettuce mix is fine, crunchy and cold. The pieces of cashew come in their own baggy, as to not get soggy.
Here is where things get difficult. A salad with so many “heavy” items as this one has the problem of construction. You dump your own dressing. You dump your own cashews. There are never enough cashews. Sometimes Wendy’s might slip you two packets of dressing. Sometimes one. Your mileage may vary. What if you put all the dressing in one corner of the salad? You’re screwed.
It’s tough to collect a bit of slippery soybean, lettuce, cashew and bell pepper in one bite on a plastic fork. When that happens, it’s a good salad. But that mostly does not happen. It would be a different story if all the ingredients were individually bright (they’re not), and if the dressing pulled all the components together into a unified front (it doesn’t). The dressing progressively gets spicier and the subtle peanut flavoring gets overpowered at a point, losing any semblance of depth. With all the fork dancing around the plate scooping up the toppings to make perfect bites, the second half of the meal is straight up spicy lettuce.
The Asian Cashew Chicken Salad is actually very low in calories, but also costs a pretty penny. You must be shelling out for that diet. Weird, some of the fattest people I know are Asian (E. Honda, Sammo Hung, Totoro). All in all, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either. But when the planets align and Hanukkah lands on Thanksgiving again, and we are put in a position of purchasing a fast food salad, it’s a solidly okay bet.
So this might be the best it gets as far as fast food salads go, Moms With Kids. Then one day your kids will be at Wendy’s 3000 ordering a Western Cashew Chicken Salad. (Ingredients are the same but Future China now owns the planet.) But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way. Break the cycle. Go with a Baconator and a side of chili next time. Enjoy your life. Love yourself.
(Nutrition Facts – Full Size – 380 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 970 milligrams of sodium, 1130 milligrams of potassium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, 6 grams of fiber, and 36 grams of protein.)
Item: Wendy’s Asian Cashew Chicken Salad
Purchased Price: $6.29
Size: Full size (half size available)
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Chicken is decent. When all components are in one bite, tastes pretty good.
Cons: Hard to get even distribution with ingredients. Back half of meal is just spice in mouth. Pretty expensive.