Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Chinatown Adventure

We recently decided to increase our cookbook library and the addition of Bee Linn Low's Easy Chinese Recipes required us to stock our kitchen with items like black vinegar, chili oil, and sesame oil. Most of these things can be found in a large enough supermarket with a whole 'ethnic foods' aisle. But where is the fun in that? So this weekend Richard and I set out on a grand adventure to Chinatown. If you are lucky enough to have a Chinatown or Asian market in your city, it is certainly worth the trip.

Chinatown is a festival for the senses. Tourists waddle slowly through the streets while locals gracefully weave through the throng. Street vendors clang spatulas and shout their wares in a sing-songy tune. Bins and baskets outside small markets overflow with colorful mushrooms, chilis, dried fruits, and dried fish.

If you could stand in the middle of a Chinatown market blindfolded (You couldn't. You'd be run over by the masses.) the smells alone would be enough to send you digging into your imagination for something familiar.

As a lover of new adventures, I browsed the aisles all wide-eyed and curious. I must have looked like a small child as I bombarded Richard with "What's this?" and "What's that for?" every three seconds. I don't know why, but I believe he knows everything - even when he doesn't. ;)

After a long day of shopping, we came home and got right to work on our first recipe out of the book - Sichuan Chicken! We instantly changed some of the ingredients to suit our palates. First, we switched out Sichuan peppercorn oil for sesame oil since the recipe already calls for chilies and chili oil and we wanted to control the heat. We also added green bell pepper for some crunch. You could just serve it with steamed veggies, but I really liked the textural addition of a crunchy veggie. Be warned, if you do not like spicy food, this is not the recipe for you.

Sichuan Chicken

4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 tbsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
oil, for frying
1 tbsp chili oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
20 dried red finger-length chilies, deseeded and cut in half
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1/4 tsp sugar
3 green onions (scallions), chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, diced

In medium bowl, combine cornstarch, rice wine and salt. Mix with a fork until fine and crumbly. Toss chicken in mixture and coat well. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a wok or pot to 350 degrees. Gently drop the chicken into the oil and loosen them up with a spatula. Fry until golden brown. Remove from the oil and allow to drain on a dish lined with paper towels.

In a wok or skillet, heat chili oil and sesame oil over high heat. Add garlic, green pepper and chilies. Stir-fry until you can smell the aroma of the chilies.

Add the chicken, bouillon powder, sugar and green onion. Stir quickly with a spatula to combine all ingredients. Allow to cook for another 2 minutes. Serve with rice.

1 comment:

  1. This looks amazing! I love Sichuan Chicken. Perfect for testing my brand new wok!