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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chinese Braised Chicken with String Black Mushrooms

I recently had a Chinese epiphany.
I want to make all types of authentic Chinese dishes, the ones you don't necessarily find in restaurants, but might find in a Chinese home.  Something about the hot broth, slippery noodles, crunchy wontons, chewy jiaozi, mint wrapped egg rolls, and fluffy buns that makes me go absolutely wild.  I love the way the culture makes a ton of different dishes and everybody shares them at the table.. sort of like an Indian thali.
Most of all, I love uncovering the mysteries behind the deep flavors.  So far, I have uncovered just a few, but it is motivating me to keep on going.
Here is an authentic northern Chinese dish inspired by Yi Reservation.
Serves 4-5
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp flake salt
1 lb chicken legs or thighs, deboned and cubed (keep the bones)
1/2 Tbsp canola oil
2 dried red chilis
2 star anis
1 tsp sichuan pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 carrot, peeled and thickly grated
1/2 kohlrabi, peeled and thickly grated
1 bok choy, sliced
3 Tbsp soy sauce (or GF alternative)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
40g dried string black mushrooms (half a bag)
4 cups water
2 bunches cellophane noodles, soaked in warm water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper
chopped cilantro and scallions for garnish
1.  Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub all over the cubed chicken.  Refrigerate while you chop the vegetables.  I used skin on bone in chicken thighs.  The original recipe has you cut it into cubes bone and all, but I thought it might be more pleasant to eat without fishing pieces of bone out of my mouth, so I cut the meat off the bones, but kept the bones in there for the stock.
2.  In a large wok, heat the oil and fry the dried chills, star anis, and sichuan pepper for a few seconds until the aromas start wafting.
3.  Add in the garlic and marinated chicken with the bones.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the skins start curling.  You want to get a nice color on there, so don't overcrowd the pan.
4.  Add the carrots, kohlrabi, bok choy, soy sauce, and rice vinegar.  Stir fry for a few minutes.
5.  Add the dried mushrooms and the water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for about 20 minutes.  Your beautiful broth will develop during this time so don't cut it short.
6.  Add in the soaked noodles, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.
mmm isn't that lovely?

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and scallions if you have them.
I served mine alongside some Baozi for the full blown experience.
I love how this is full of spice and flavor, but not fiery hot.  I was careful not to break the red chilis, since those are usually the culprit when I make my meals "too spicy."
There is a ma la event that happens if you bite into one of those sichuan peppercorns... your mouth and tongue go numb for a few seconds, and it's strangely pleasant.  I think they call that feeling Ma La.  Here the ma la is very very subtle, not overwhelming.... but it makes me want to try the full blown ma la very soon...
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