This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes. In fact, my husband requests this and my other asian style dishes so often that he recently bought several sets of chopsticks online. In his words this purchase made me “obligated to cook asian as much as possible.” Whenever cooking another culture’s food, I do tons of research and make every effort to keep the cooking style and dishes as authentic as possible. This spicy chicken dish is no exception to that.
Both my husband and I grew up in small, country towns in Texas so we had never experienced city life. The closest I ever got to a big city experience was the rare (and slightly uncomfortable) trip into the city for things we couldn’t find in our hometowns like prom dresses or Schlotzky’s.
We are now living in Edinburgh, Scotland, right in the middle of the city and we are loving it! We have access to so many types of foods and markets I never could have dreamed of in my small Texas town. We recently discovered a great asian market not far from where we live. The market has both inspired and supplied our recent asian cooking kick.
Alright, enough about me, here’s how I make my Spicy Chicken Stir Fry:
I start by collecting all of my ingredients, Rachel Ray style of course (is there another way to do it?). Here’s what you’ll need:
The next step is to prep all of your ingredients. The beauty of a stir fry is that is cooks in a flash. This really comes in handy when you have a hungry family (or in my case, husband) hovering over you, picking at your ingredients, and asking when supper will be ready. With a stir fry you turn your stove on high, make big stirring motions (easily throwing an elbow into a hover-er), tell the family to set the table, and truthfully answer that dinner will be ready to eat in less than 10 minutes. The trick to this speedy meal is to have all of your ingredients completely prepped and waiting by the stove BEFORE you start cooking. If you know that you will need to throw this dinner together quickly and/or you are not the fastest chopper, it’s a great idea to cut everything up beforehand, stick it all in a tupperware and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
For this stir fry, feel free to use whichever vegetables you like best in a stir fry. I am using mushrooms, a bell pepper, spring onions, and bean sprouts. Some other veggies that I like to throw in are sugar snap peas and onions. No need to cut the bean sprouts or sugar snap peas (if you’re using them). Mushrooms simply need to be sliced and the onion and bell pepper should be cut into 1 inch squares. Take a look at my post on an How to Easily Cut a Bell Pepper under Food 101. The spring onions need to be thinly sliced until you have about 1/4 cup.
Just like cajun cooking has a trinity of ingredients that start almost every recipe, Chinese cooking also has a trinity. The Chinese trinity is fresh ginger, garlic, and peppers. These three ingredients will be the beginning of nearly every Chinese dish and go a long way to making home-cooked asian dishes taste like they came from a Chinese restaurant. There is a specific way to prepare these ingredients authentically.
For the garlic, peel the garlic and then give it a good smash on the cutting board. And then smash it again. And then again. You basically want to crush the garlic up a bit helping it to release it’s flavor and oil.
After you’ve given it a good beating, roughly chop the garlic. Don’t worry about being too precise here, you just don’t want to leave chunks so big that someone gets an unpleasant amount of garlic in one bite.
On to the ginger. Using fresh ginger is very important. The dried stuff just doesn’t quite do it for authentic Chinese dishes. The first step is peeling the ginger. In favor of not wasting any of the delicious flesh, the skin should be peeled of with the back of a spoon. It takes a little bit of practice to do this quickly and accurately, but believe me, once you get good at it, it is so worth it. This really is the best way to peel ginger with the least waste.
Once you have the ginger peeled, you can either grate it up or very thinly slice it. For this recipe I have chosen to slice, but feel free to do your preference.
Last part of the trinity is the peppers. This is a spicy dish so I have chosen a moderately spicy red pepper and I am using three. If you and your family don’t love the spice, feel free to use fewer peppers or even a milder pepper. The peppers just need to be thinly sliced, seeds and all.
Next, prep the chicken. This recipe is a place that I love to use leftover Classic Roast Chicken. If you are not using leftover chicken, you can also use uncooked and thawed pieces of chicken cut into 1 inch cubes. If you prefer to use pork or beef instead, this recipe would work great with those as well. I tend to use whatever I have in the fridge. If you are using leftover chicken, simply use about a cup and a half and make sure that it is in fairly even pieces no larger than 1 inch long. Place the chicken in a bowl and mix in 1/4 cup oyster sauce.
Lastly, and this is very important, mix together 2 tsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder, or tapioca powder, or the like) with 3 tsp water. This is what will thicken your sauce and make that lovely, shiny, slightly sticky sauce that is iconic in asian food. This is that mystery ingredient that makes Chinese restaurant food so much better than home-cooked. Those days are no more! I am telling you the secret. Mix it together in a little cup and set it aside, we’ll add it in at the very end.
Once everything is prepped, put it all in neat little piles right by the stove and turn your wok on. Well, ideally it’s a wok. I don’t have a wok, but I dream about having a wok. One day when we live somewhere permanent and I have more than one cabinet in my kitchen, I will have a wok. For now, I turn my deep sided pan on and add in 1.5 tbs of vegetable or peanut oil. The heat needs to be turned up rather high. Think about when you’ve watched people wok at Mongolian Grill or other similar places. Chinese food is meant to be cooked at high temperatures for short amount of time. So have no fear, turn up the heat!
You’ll know the wok (or pan) is ready when you drop in a little piece of garlic and it sizzles. When you get to that point, toss in all of the trinity and pass it through the oil. Keep it moving, but don’t smoosh it or bruise it. Simply gently move it around with your spoon to prevent it from burning.
After about two minutes, add in the chicken. If using raw chicken, cook it until it is cooked through. If using leftover chicken, pass it through the oil and allow to cook until it gets a slight crisp (normally about 2 minutes).
Next, it’s in with the hard veggies. For me, that’s my bell pepper and mushrooms. Allow these to cook, always gently moving them with the spoon, until they are slightly softened and the mushrooms are cooked through (about 3 minutes). After the rest of the veggies are cooked go ahead and toss in the softer veggies like the bean sprouts and spring onions.
Then we will create the sauce. You’ll need 3 tbs of a good black rice wine vinegar (this creates the sour), 1/4 cup light soy sauce, 1 tsp of sesame oil, and about 1 tbs of a good hot chili oil sauce. I want to emphasize, this recipe is HOT. My husband loves the heat, but notice in the next picture the glass of milk behind our bowls. That’s for me, folks. This dish makes me sweat. Feel free to reduce the chili sauce amount or even leave out if you want a more mild dish.
Stir everything together and let it come to a boil. Once it has come to the bowl, add in the thickening mixture and stir together. You will immediately see your sauce thicken and take on that beautiful, glossy quality. Turn off the heat and serve over rice or noodles.
Spicy Chicken Stir Fry
- 15 baby bella mushrooms sliced
- 1 bell pepper cut into 1 inch squares
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1/4 cup sliced spring onions
- 3 red peppers thinly sliced
- 1.5 tbs fresh ginger ground
- 2 cloves garlic smashed and minced
- 1.5 cups chicken cut into 1 inch cubes (raw or cooked) Check out our Classic Roast Chicken
- 3 tbs good black rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbs hot chili sauce
- 1.5 tbs vegetable or peanut oil
- 2 tsp arrowroot powder or the like
Prep all ingredients and set by the stove. Mix chicken with the oyster sauce. Mix together the arrowroot powder and 3 tsp water. Put the vegetable or peanut oil in the pan or wok and turn on the heat. Heat should be turned up to high.
Oil is ready when a piece of garlic sizzles when added in. If the oil is ready, add in the garlic, ginger, and pepper. Gently move around constantly for 2 minutes to prevent sticking. Add in chicken. If raw, cook until cooked through. If already cooked, cook until slightly crispy (about 2 minutes).
Add in mushrooms and bell pepper. Cook until veggies are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add in spring onions and bean sprouts. Add in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and chili sauce. Stir together and bring to a boil. Immediately add in the arrowroot powder mixture and stir together. Turn off the heat and serve over rice or noodles.
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