As a child, every Friday night we would go to a Chinese restaurant with my father’s side of the family. Nothing gave my father more pleasure than to order half the menu. Of course, we would get the round table with the lazy susan, so no one had to really stretch that far to have all the different options he had ordered. I, usually just ate a bowl of steamed peas or sautéed mushrooms. Silly me. It wasn’t until I was about 10 that I discovered this dish, tangy, crispy, spicy and sweet all the same, I fell in love.
After moving to Spain, one of the things that I miss the most about living in the States, is good Chinese take out. We do have Chinese take out, but it is nothing in comparison to the variety that we have back home. It is such a shame, most of the time it all comes in a pool of its own oil, making everything soggy, bland and basically inedible.
So I was really happy to see that Saveur had included this recipe into their classics. It took me a while to make, because finding the right ingredients here is quite difficult. I still haven’t found somewhere close by to my house where I can buy them, but for this occasion I made an effort. The only thing I couldn’t find were scallions. Even in Barcelona they were hard to get!
So, on to the recipe. I loved it. Obviously less sweet than the restaurant version, this one was more tangy and it had such a great consistency. Not overly spicy, which shocked me due to the amount of chili peppers I threw in, but that was great. My family doesn’t tolerate spiciness as much as I do. Surprisingly, my daughter was the one who enjoyed it the most. Always the picky one, she even asked me to pack it up for lunch at school the next day. My fiancé, however, not so much. He hasn’t been exposed to the amount of Chinese food as I have, so his taste buds aren’t used to the complex flavours of this type of cuisine. Nonetheless, it was delicious and a success!
Overall points: 7.6/10
Availability of Ingredients: Easy for my American counterparts, a little harder for continental Europeans
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. chicken stock
7 tbsp. cornstarch
6 tbsp. rice vinegar
6 tbsp. tomato paste
5 tbsp. light soy sauce
4 1/2 tsp dark sou sauce
2 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 in cubes
3 1/2 cups plus 9 tbsp. peanut oil
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp. minced ginger
2 tbsp. minced garlic
16 chiles de arbol
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
Thinly slice scallions, to garnish ( I used leeks)
1. Whisk stock, 1 tbsp cornstarch, vinegar, tomato paste, 3 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, and 3 tbsp water in a bowl; set aside.
2. Place remaining cornstarch and both soy sauces, chicken, 3 tbsp peanut oil, and egg yolks in a bowl; toss. Pour 3 1/2 cups peanut oil in a 14″ flat-bottomed wok; heat over med-high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 375 degrees. Working in batches, add chicken; fry, tossing, until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels; set aside. Discard oil; wipe wok clean.
3. Return wok to high heat, and add remaining peanut oil. Add ginger, garlic, and chiles; fry, stirring constantly, until fragrant and chiles begin to change color, about 30 seconds. Add reserved sauce; cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add chicken; fry, tossing constantly, until evenly coated with sauce, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sesame oil. Transfer to a serving plate; top with scallions. Serves 2-3.
From my kitchen to yours,