Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sichuan "Kung Po" Chicken with Cashews

I haven't done a Chinese, so to speak, for a little while so I thought I should rectify that.

This is a pretty big favourite in the HMHB household and when you see how easy it is to do I am sure it will be in yours too!

With all Chinese food the work is in the preparation, the actual cooking time is very short, and as things all happen pretty quick once the wok is ready it is best to be well prepared; have everything chopped up in little bowls, the sauces all on standby, ladle in hand, beer in the other and all will be sorted.

Ingredients (for four)

400g chicken breast
100g raw cashew nuts
1 red pepper, cut into 1cm squares
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small knob of fresh ginger, chopped fine
5 or more Kashmiri chillis, or other dried ones.
1 egg white
4 tsp dry sherry
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
150ml good chicken stock
1 tbsp chilli bean sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp tomato puree
3 spring onions, chopped into 2cm long segments
Fresh coriander, washed and chopped

The presentation of the food is quite important in these sorts of dishes so when you chop the chicken try and cut the breasts into equal sized smallish (1 cm) cubes.

The dried chillis do not impart much heat, they give a slightly smoky flavour to the dish and they do of course add quite a bit to the presentation. If you want a bit more blast add a chopped Thai chilli as well at the same time as you throw in the onions and garlic.

Place the chopped chicken in glass bowl with sesame oil, egg white, cornstarch and sherry. Give it a good mix to make sure everything is coated and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes.

Either in a dry wok or in a hot (200C/400F) oven roast the cashew nuts. In the oven this will take about 5 minutes only. Once the nuts have browned nicely put to one side.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and then tip the chicken and the marinade in. Blanch the chicken for about 3 minutes, give it a stir occasionally and then drain. If you have ever wondered how in some Chinese dishes the chicken retains a sort of silky texture and remains very moist inside this is how it is done. The Chinese call this ‘velveting’ and it works a treat.

Heat the wok over medium high heat, add about 1 tbsp of ground nut oil and when it is hot throw in the dried chillis. Give them a quick flick, and then add the onions, the garlic and the ginger. Fry quickly for about 30 seconds and then add the stock, the chilli bean paste, the hoisin sauce, the tomato puree and the sugar. Give another very quick stir and add the red pepper.

You can add other vegetables if you want at this stage to make it slightly more substantial. Water chestnuts are delicious, but I quite often add a small handful of mangetout or sugarsnap peas. It’s your call.

Tip in the chicken and cook for about another 30 seconds or so. Add the spring onions and the cashews give them a couple of good flicks around the wok, tip into a large warmed serving bowl, garnish with some chopped coriander if you wish and serve straightaway.

From the time you’ve heated the wok to the time you tip out the food it should take you less than five minutes. The Chinese are the true masters of fast food.

1 comment:

Greedy Girl said...

This took me straight back to Beijing,...(minus the choking smog, the rather interesting sweet smells coming from drains, goddam university students conning you at every corner..).So pleased to find it, actually preferred this to the 'authentic' $50 Beijing duck, colonial peasant that I am!