Saturday, August 01, 2009

back to my, er, his roots

Somebody was VERY excited when he heard that the challenge category for this week was “spicy.” He loves the spicy. I don’t love it the way he does, and, in fact, before we got married considered mild salsa to be spicy. I have come a long way in my spice tolerance in the past three years, but still am no where near his level. Of course we went with Chinese food, because for him there is no better place to have spice than in Chinese food. Lucky for me, we already own three great Chinese cookbooks. Somebody ordered these a little while ago because he knows that the author is a great chef. Apparently she is the Taiwanese equivalent of Julia Child, or Emeril Lagasse, or Bobby Flay. You know—a cooking superstar.

I’m sure you aren’t surprised that Somebody is in charge of all the Chinese cooking that goes on in our house. While I consider myself fairly skilled in the kitchen, the cooking methods used in Chinese cooking are still pretty foreign (ha ha) to me, and I’m not confident following his directions. Especially because so much of his cooking is based on the look of the food, or the smell, or feel, or whatever—it takes some practice and up until now I haven’t had any practice. I think that Somebody had probably given up hope that he would ever come home from work and find I had made a Chinese meal, but after tonight he has started saying things like, “Just a few more of these recipes and you’ll be able to prepare the full three dishes.” And, “You make a wonderful Chinese wife.” Both of those statements made me laugh. The full three dishes? What the? One is not enough? Apparently, no. And, yes, with practice and direction I’m turning out to be a lovely Chinese wife. Whatever. I’m pretty much the opposite of a lovely Chinese wife, but that’s why he loves me so much.

Anyway, on to the recipe. The beauty of Pei Mei’s books is that recipe has a photo so you know what the end result should look like, and, more importantly, each recipe is given in English and traditional Chinese characters. While you don’t need to be able to read any Chinese to follow the recipes, more than once Somebody read through the Chinese recipe to get a better understanding of what the English was trying to say. You should totally hire a translator when you make this. I know a good one. I am going to give it to you exactly as it is written, and then my notes and changes are at the end.

Chicken with Gongbao Sauce (you might know it as Kung Pow Sauce)
2 chicken legs or 300 g. chicken breast
10 pieces dried red chili
½ cup peanuts
1 tsp chopped ginger

Seasonings (1):
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water

Seasonings (2):
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp wine
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp sesame oil

1. Remove all bones from chicken, cut into 2.5cm cubes, marinate in Seasonings (1) for 30 minutes.
2. Wipe dried chili, cut into 3 cm long pieces.
3. Fry chicken in heated oil for 40-50 seconds. Remove chicken. 4. Heat 1 Tbsp oil to fry dried chilies until it turns dark red, add ginger and chicken, stir fry quickly, add Seasonings (2), stir until evenly mixed, turn off the heat. Add the peanuts, mix well and serve. We served this over white rice, garnished with cilantro, and ate with chopsticks. Please don’t make this unless you have chopsticks. It’s, like, a crime to cook this authentically and then use a fork.
My notes and tips:

  • We used two chicken thighs with the skin and bones removed. This made just enough for the two of us for dinner. Somebody said that we could have doubled the amount of chicken and still used the same amount of sauce, but I kind of liked having a little extra sauce to flavor the rice.
  • I did not wipe off or cut the red chili peppers. I didn’t wipe them because Somebody said I didn’t have to. I have no idea why not. But he’s the expert here so I just went along with it. I didn’t chop them because I didn’t want this to be too spicy to eat. I just chose small peppers. Also, and this I didn’t know beforehand, but when the dish is finished you don’t eat the red chili peppers. You just pick them out, sort of like you would a bay leaf. They are just there to add some flavor to the oil and to give a little heat. All the spice/heat in this dish comes from the red chili peppers. Because I didn’t cut them, and so didn’t release any of the seeds, this ended up being not spicy AT ALL. Not at all. I was shocked. Somebody was completely disappointed with how non spicy it was. It was absolutely delicious, but not spicy. If you want heat, just cut open your chili peppers. Oh, and you can find dried red chili peppers in the fresh fruit/veggie section of most grocery stores—they will be in the little section that has ethnic foods.

  • All cooking (frying and stir frying) is done on high heat.
  • I used ¾ cup oil to fry the chicken because I was using a flat, non-stick pan. If I had been using a wok I would have only needed about 1/3 cup oil.
  • The directions say to fry the chicken for 40-50 seconds. I cooked it a little longer—not more than two minutes—just until the chicken was no longer pink and looked completely cooked.
  • If using a non-stick pan, which we did, you don’t need to add the extra 1 Tbsp of oil to cook the chilies. I just dumped out the oil that had cooked the chicken, didn’t wipe out the pan completely, and just used the light coating that remained in the pan to cook the chilies. If you are going to use a wok, you would need to add in the extra oil.
  • I fried the red chili peppers for about 30 seconds (they didn’t seem to change color, so I just went with when Somebody told me they were done) before adding the ginger and chicken. Also, and consider this your warning, although leaving the peppers whole made it so that EATING this was not spicy, I absolutely felt the heat of the peppers while I was frying them. Seriously. There was much coughing and gagging and not breathing for the 30 seconds the peppers were frying. The fumes killed me. I’m just a ghost writing these great tips for you. The ghost of a good Chinese wife.
  • Just in case you don’t have white wine, or cooking wine, or Chinese rice cooking wine like we have… …you can just use a tablespoon of water. Or just take it out of the recipe. Somebody says that the wine is just there to remove the chicken-y smell from the cooking. What huh? Whatever. So, don’t feel the need to put on sunglasses and a baseball cap and go to the grocery story across town just to purchase the wine for this recipe.
  • Once the Seasonings (2) was added, I cooked it for about one minute before removing it from the heat and serving it. Chinese food is always served hot, hot, hot, so be ready with your rice so that you can eat as soon as this is done.
  • When I make this again we will reduce the amount of soy sauce in Seasonings (2) to 1 ½ Tbsp, and would increase the ginger slightly.

Make this tonight. This recipe is so easy and comes together very quickly. From start to finish I think it only took about 45 minutes, and that included the time it took to de-bone the chicken and marinate it. I am not sure if I would have been as successful making this as it was printed without Somebody watching over my shoulder and giving me tips. Now that I’ve done it once I’m confident that I could do it again without assistance. If you need me to come and watch over your shoulder, just let me know.


Shari said...

I don't know about watching over my shoulder, but you could come make it for me! One of these days I'll try it, it looks yummy!

Miss L said...

Yay! I've been waiting for this post. It really does look yummy and I'm so glad it didn't scorch your mouth off, but was instead a slice of deliciousness. Yay!

ps. Super J and I giggled at the 2 chicken legs or 300 GRAMS of chicken breast. Like we would know how to measure a scale thingy.

byufish said...

Okay....if I had NOT just had lunch at Pei Wei I would be staying up late and making this so I could go to Choir in the morning with Chinese food breath. Good thing I went to lunch at Pei Wei!! Thanks for the tips too...I need to make this sometime soon—it sounds soooo good!!

Janssen said...

Wow, this looks amazing. Bart said "Did you see what Jennifer made? You should make that!"

Karla said...

Did the chili pepper give off enough flavor to be even worth buying?
I hope you put some more good Chinese recipes in here, because I love Chinese and need lots of tips, like where to find the ingredients in the grocery store.

Adrienne said...

Hulk HUNGRY. Thanks!

Original Ping Family said...

Wow, I think I could make this. I might make it tonight!


Rachel said...

We are definitely trying this one. Yummy!!!