Chinese Garlic Pea Shoots + Kung Pao Chicken — asian , budget meals , chicken , chinese , easy , fast , favorite recipes , healthy , quick dinners , vegetables — For Two, Please

July 27, 2010

Chinese Garlic Pea Shoots + Kung Pao Chicken

Two posts in one week?? Yes, I'm pinching myself as well. What is this, 2009 or something? ;)

Anyway, I guess this really doesn't count as a post because #1, this is the easiest and fastest meal ever and #2, I don't even have an "official" Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazine recipe for it. But don't be fooled -- anything pulled from my mom's cooking files is legit (especially when it comes to food from da motherland). It's just that "a little pinch here" and "handful or two there" is kinda hard to translate into tangible quantities. But I'll try my best...

Back in the day, AC and I used to eat this all the time. It's fast, fresh, and so much better than your typical Chinese takeout or delivery. The secret to great Kung Pao chicken is the marinade -- or cornstarch, really. The Chinese (I say that like they're some exotic specimen) use cornstarch for nearly everything. Usually it's to help thicken soups or sauces. But in this case, it's combined with the marinade to create a protective coating around the chicken pieces so that the meat doesn't dry out when stir-fried. That's probably why chicken is always unusually moist, velvety and soft in Chinese restaurants -- it's all because of the cornstarch, baby!!

Of course, letting the chicken sit in the marinade for a couple of hours will also make a huge difference. Sherry is another big ingredient in Chinese cooking: whenever you use soy sauce, use equal parts sherry to offset the saltiness. For the Choi version of this marinade, we do equal parts soy sauce and sherry, a drip (or two) of sesame oil for sweetness, a double drip of hot chili oil (we like our food spicy), and some hot pepper flakes for even more kick. Pour this along with a spoonful or so of cornstarch over the chicken, and you're ready to go.

Btw, the pea shoots are equally wonderful and simple -- they were actually going to be the highlight of this post! But then I got so caught up and excited about the whole cornstarch shebang, I couldn't stop myself. Yup, really living on the edge here. Anyway, my "spoonful of this" and "pinch of that" recipe for pea shoots can be found below. Enjoy! :P

Chinese Garlic Pea Shoots + Kung Pao Chicken
Recipe by SC

Garlic Pea Shoots
1 plastic bagful of fresh pea shoots, rinsed with H20
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 T olive oil
1/8 C water
white pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
salt, to taste
[measurements are approximations]

Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil into a large frying pan so that it covers the entire bottom. Heat on high until the oil begins smoking. Add minced garlic and stir until it just begins to become fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add washed pea shoots and stir-fry until greens wilt, about 3-5 minutes. Add a splash of water and immediately cover the pan. This will create steam and further "soften" the vegetables. Steam for about a minute more. Uncover and season with white pepper, garlic powder, and salt.

Kung Pao Chicken w/ Cashews
2 chicken breasts, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow red pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 C cashews or peanuts
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C sherry
1/2 t sesame oil
1 t hot chili oil
1 t hot pepper flakes
1 1/2 T cornstarch
oyster sauce, to taste
[measurements are approximations]

Combine bottom six ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over diced chicken and let marinade for a couple of hours or overnight. Heat large pan over high heat until it begins smoking. Add minced garlic and stir until it just starts to become fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and marinade sauce into pan, and stir-fry until almost cooked through (about 3-5 minutes). Remove meat from heat.

Pour a couple teaspoons olive oil into the same pan. Once the oil becomes hot, add zucchini, bell peppers, and onion. Stir fry until vegetables become soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add chicken and cashews, mixing over heat for about 1-2 minutes more. Lightly sprinkle about 1-2 teaspoons oyster sauce over mixture and stir. Remove from heat and serve.

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