POSTED: 03:23 p.m. HST, Feb 26, 2014
Minute chicken is on the menu of just about any Chinese restaurant yet seems a dish loosely defined. The only requirement is that the chicken be cut small enough to cook quickly -- in a minute, literally -- which really is true of most stir-fries.
From restaurant to restaurant, from published recipe to recipe, you'll find variations. The base can be oyster sauce, bean sauce, chicken broth or something spicier. The chicken can be stir-fried or quickly deep-fried. It is often served over noodles but sometimes over rice.
Jan Mori wrote in search of a good recipe. Because I came across so many variations, I turned to an expert in Chinese home-style cooking, June Tong, author of the "Popo's Kitchen" cookbooks. She offered me so many variations it was dizzying, then sent me one to try.
I can't swear that it's exactly what Mori has in her taste-bud memory, but it's delicious. Worth the trouble. I say trouble, because unless you have a well-stocked Chinese pantry, you're going to have to go shopping and buy bottles and jars of sauces just to use a few teaspoons of each (see the notes at the end for details). It is these layers of flavors that make the dish so much more than a simple stir-fry.
I'm OK with what I spent. It was all inexpensive, and I'm sure I'll make this again.
Popo's Minute Chicken
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1-1/2 tablespoons bean sauce (sometimes called brown bean sauce or paste, see notes)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons slivered ginger
4 cloves garlic, slivered
1-1/2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (see notes)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
>> Seasoning sauce:
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons mushroom-flavored soy sauce (see notes)
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (see notes)
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 cup sliced green onion, cut in 1-inch pieces
Combine marinade ingredients. Add chicken; mix well and let sit 30 minutes. Combine sauce ingredients; set aside.
Heat wok or skillet on high. Add oil; heat until smoky. Add chicken and marinade; stir-fry until well browned. Stir in sauce and continue cooking over high heat, stirring constantly until sauce is slightly scorched. Turn off heat and stir in butter. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 400 calories, 22 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 225 mg cholesterol, 1,300 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 5 g sugar, 46 g protein
Ingredient notes: Chili-garlic sauce is a pungent red blend exactly as described; there are Chinese and Vietnamese versions (with a picture of a rooster on the label); use either; they can be found in most supermarkets. Bean sauce (not black bean sauce) is made from fermented yellow soybeans.
Mushroom soy sauce is a thick, dark soy sauce flavored with dry mushrooms. Common Chinese brands for these sauces are Lee Kum Kee and Koon Chun; find them in Asian markets or in Chinatown grocery stores. Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) is harder to find, sold near cooking wines or Japanese mirin in some Asian and most Chinatown markets. Japanese sake is not the same, but can be a substitute, as well as dry sherry or gin.
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
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