Monday, February 18, 2013

Sichuan-Style Stir-Fried Chicken with Peanuts

This dish is quite close to the kung pao chicken you may have ordered before becoming vegan. It's a great introduction to the western school of Chinese cuisine, in case you're still thinking of "Chinese food" as one broad category. Known primarily for its spices, the western school aims for a blend of hot, sour, sweet, and salty all in one bite. This recipe has those flavors and more.

For the marinade:
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine*
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 6 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
For stir-frying:
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine*
  • 1 tablespoon Annie's Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced and peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
For the remaining ingredients:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups drained sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch) sliced green onion tops
  • 3/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
  • 6 cups hot cooked long-grain rice
1. To prepare the marinade, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Combine in a bowl with 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil.  Cover and chill for 20 minutes.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a large skillet (or wok if you have one) over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken mixture and stir-fry for 4 minutes.  Remove from the pan.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: in a bowl, combine the broth, sugar, 2 and 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine, the Worcestershire sauce, 1 and 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil, stirring well with a whisk.  Set aside.

4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil in the pan; add 2 tablespoons green onions, the ginger, the garlic, and the chile paste.  Stir-fry for 15 seconds.  Add the sauce mixture and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until thick.

5. Return the chicken mixture to the pan, along with the water chestnuts, 1 cup green onions, and peanuts.  Cook for a final minute.

6. Prepare the rice in the meantime, so it is hot and ready to go.  Serve 3/4 cup stir-fry over 1 cup rice on each of 6 plates.

Add a steamed vegetable like snow peas to round out the meal.

Incidentally, this dish is very nice with a glass of vegan red wine, like the zinfandel from Girasole Vineyards.

*I used the rice cooking wine from Ka-me, as I couldn't find true Shaoxing rice wine at my local wine store. I also was unable to dig up any information on rice wine and filtration methods, so was just as happy to use the "cooking wine" version, despite the added salt.  Sake would make a fine substitute, but just make sure to choose an unfiltered or vegan-friendly brand.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (3/4 cup stir-fry, 1 cup rice), Calories 590

Tasting Notes:
The heat in this dish was perfect for me, a warming kind of spice rather than a tongue-searing one. If you like spicier food, you can easily increase the amount of chili paste, as 1 teaspoon is quite judicious. After all, Sichuan cooking is infamous for its tongue-tingling heat.  The sauce had a nice blend of sweet, spicy and savory, although all of those elements could be increased, and I was not really able to taste the ginger and garlic. Next time I'd swap in broccoli for the green onion tops, which I didn't love. Rice makes a good base to soak up the rest of the sauce, except next time I'd flip the portions when plating: more chicken mixture, less rice.


Vegan extra:
A few more notes about the ingredients in this recipe. This recipe already includes many of the hallmark seasonings in the western school of Chinese cuisine, including the chile paste, ginger, garlic, water chestnuts, and nuts. If you're not up for cooking but want to eat something similar, try the vegan kung pao chicken from Vegetarian Plus. The mixture contains dried chiles, and I stirred in chopped fresh ones for extra heat:

The chile paste, an essential component of the Chinese pantry, is a blend of crushed chile peppers, oil, vinegar, and garlic. 

If you can't find it, substitute crushed red pepper, but it won't quite be the same. Leftover chile paste, is delicious spooned over the vegan Peking duck from Macro Vegetarian.

Dark sesame oil, often labeled as either toasted or roasted sesame oil, is another key component here. 

However, since the flavor can break down at high heat, you might consider drizzling it over veggies as a seasoning, rather than using it for stir-frying. Some other veggies you might find in western Chinese cuisine are mushrooms and bamboo shoots:

No comments:

Post a Comment