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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kung Pao Chicken and Cauliflower with Fried Rice

I'm really falling in love with Sichuan cuisine.  While waiting to actually get to travel to that lovely refined province and until I get my hands on some Pixian Doubanjiang and black vinegar, I found that this classic dish is quite easy to make and it's easy to have the ingredients on hand.  I wouldn't call this the authentic version.  I did have to sub rice vinegar for black vinegar and rice wine.. and I decided to use cashews instead of peanuts, but I think anyone would agree that no 2 households would make this dish in exactly the same way.
I love how it tasted better than restaurant style and with a lot less oil and salt.
Adapted from Yi Reservation (my new Chinese cuisine tutor)
Serves 4
1/2 lb (250g) cubed chicken breast
1/2 lb (250g) chopped cauliflower
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsalted cashews (or peanuts)
3-4 dried red chilis, cut in half crosswise and seeded
2 Tbsp grated ginger
2 chopped scallions
1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce (or GF alternative)
1 Tbsp light soy sauce (or GF alternative)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp black vinegar (I subbed rice vinegar)
1/2 Tbsp corn starch diluted in 2 Tbsp water
1 tsp light soy sauce (or GF alternative)
1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp rice wine (I subbed rice vinegar)
1/2 tsp white pepper
1.  Mix the marinade ingredients together and separately marinate the chicken cubes and cauliflower for at least 20 minutes.  Prep the other ingredients during this time.
2.  Heat the oil in a wok and fry the cashews until golden.  Reserve and set aside.
3.  In the same oil, fry the chicken cubes without overcrowding the pan for 2 minutes or until they turn white.  Reserve and set aside.  This seals in the juices and prevents the chicken breast from being too dry.. and it really works.
4.  Leave about 2 Tbsp of the oil in the wok and throw out the rest.  Fry the red chilis until they turn dark, then add the ginger and scallions and cook for about 30 seconds.
5.  Add in the bell pepper and cook for another minute, then add the cauliflower and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
6.  Add the marinated chicken and stir fry for another few minutes.  It should start smelling wonderful.
7.  Add the sauce and cashews, toss well, then remove from heat, cover, and set aside until you are ready to eat.

Serve hot or warm with some fried rice.
For the easy but versatile fried rice:
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wide flat pan.  Add a beaten egg and peas in the center and cook while agitating, then add some rice, stir, then spread out the rice along the pan.  Wait a few minutes, then stir.  Keep adding rice in this way so all of it gets "fried" and none of it clumps.

I started out with chopsticks, but finished with a fork... I have to admit that it is easier to eat noodles with chopsticks than rice...
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