Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken and Snake Bean Stir-Fry

For several years, I have had an allergy to monosodium glutamate (MSG), which made eating out at Chinese restaurants difficult. Many restaurants today do not use MSG, many oblige and make you food without MSG, but I still found myself uncomfortable after a Chinese meal at any restaurant that obliged. Having grown up in India eating a lot of Chinese food (my mother grew up in Singapore and brought those flavors to our table), I didn't want to be deprived. Ching-He Huang's book, Ching's Chinese Food In Minutes, changed my (Asian) kitchen life! Incredible, easy, and quick recipes.

I had a few basic recipes down, such as Chicken and Broccoli, Simple Egg Fried Rice, Sweet Corn Chicken Soup. Her book helped me get more diverse with my Chinese cooking.

The other thing that I love about her recipes is that when she says a recipe will take 10 minutes to make, she means it! I managed to stir-fry this dish today while singing to keep my two-year-old son entertained. Served with brown rice, it is a healthy and balanced meal to have.

If you're buying chicken directly from your butcher you can ask him to cut in into thin strips to reduce your prep time even further. also sells chicken sliced into strips.

Ching says, "This is a stir-fry inspired by a lunch I had with 'Ah-e' (Aunty) in Beijing. She cooked a simple but delicious chicken and snake bean stir-fry, and this is my quick version."

Prep time: 5 minutes (plus 20 minutes soaking / marinating)
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves 2

250 grams / 9 oz skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 teaspoon Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tablespoons groundnut oil (peanut oil)
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
1 dried Chinese mushroom, pre-soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained and sliced
100 grams snake beans (Snake beans can be found in the vegetable section of a good Chinese supermarket, or use some trimmed French beans as a substitute)
50 grams / 2 oz toasted cashew nuts (I used peanuts instead, as a personal preference)
25 ml / 1 fl oz hot chicken stock
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
a dash of toasted sesame oil
1 pinch of ground white pepper

  1. Marinate the chicken in the rice wine or sherry and the dark soy sauce for 10-15 minutes (while the mushroom soaks)
  2. Just before cooking, dust the chicken lightly with cornflour. Heat a wok over a high heat and add the groundnut oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the garlic and mushroom and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the chicken and stir-fry for a few minutes until slightly browned.
  3. Add the beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes until tender, then add the nuts.
  4. Add the hot stock and season wtih the light soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper.
    Serve immediately.
Cook's tip: This was delicious when served immediately. I tried the left overs at night, and it was a bit dry.
To revamp it, add a sauce to it.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon chili sauce, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1/2 cup water. Add 1/2 teaspoon cornflour, mix until smooth. In a hot wok bring the sauce to a boil, add left over chicken for a minute or two and remove.

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