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Chinese Stir Fry Chicken
By Charlie Burke

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Chinese stir-fry can make healthy, flavor packed additions to our meal schedule.
In Asian diets, smaller portions of meat are served, usually amid mixed
vegetables quickly fried at high heat to preserve flavor and texture.

We are reminded frequently that Americans eat much larger portions of meat
than are consumed in Europe and Asia, and the opposite is true regarding
vegetables. The marinated meat, chicken or fish makes a satisfying meal with the
vegetables and, of course, rice, and the balance of meat and vegetables is a much
healthier ratio.

There need not be a specific recipe; compatible vegetables are chosen, such as
broccoli and green beans with beef, lighter vegetables such as pea pods and Bok
Choy with fish and whatever is fresh and appealing seems to go with chicken. In
all preparations, scallions or garlic is added, and mushrooms add to any version.
Preparation is easy, with the most important step being to cut ingredients into
similar sizes so that they cook at the same time.

I use fresh ginger in all of these preparations, along with soy sauce and various
oriental flavorings, such as black bean paste, chili paste and toasted sesame oil.
Peanut oil is the oil of choice in wok frying because it tolerates very high heat
and adds a subtle nutty taste to the dish.

The meat or fish is removed from the marinade and drained, and the reserved
marinade becomes the base for the quick sauce. This recipe was prepared with
what was at hand and is really a master recipe in which any or all of the
ingredients can be changed. The basics are the same: the meat is quickly cooked
over very high heat, removed from the wok or sauté pan and then the vegetables
are cooked in sequence beginning with those with the longest cooking time. The
meat is returned to the hot wok and the sauce is made in less than a minute in the
wok.

Four servings:

1 pound boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced across the grain and cut into 2
inch pieces
2 red peppers, seeded and cut into ¼ inch strips
1 bunch asparagus cut into 2 inch pieces
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced thin
1 medium yellow squash, sliced length wise into ¼ inch slices, then into ¼ inch
strips, and cut into 2 inch pieces
6 scallions, sliced
4 ¼ inch slices of fresh ginger, peeled
¼ cup soy sauce or reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon black bean and garlic sauce or 2 teaspoons Chinese hot pepper paste
1/3 cup rice wine, dry sherry or dry vermouth (optional)
2 teaspoons corn starch
Peanut oil to film wok
Toasted sesame oil (optional)

Crush and finely chop two of the ginger slices and place into a bowl, along with
the soy sauce, black bean or pepper paste and the wine. Add chicken and mix
with marinade. Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes. Lift chicken out of marinade and
place into a strainer over the bowl.

Heat a wok, heavy sauté pan or seasoned iron skillet over high heat until very
hot: water droplets will vaporize immediately. Pour enough peanut oil into the
wok to film it well up the sides. Place chicken into the wok and cook, stirring
frequently until just done. Remove chicken and set aside. Add more oil and the
remaining two slices of ginger into the wok and add peppers and asparagus,
cooking briefly, then add the mushrooms, squash and scallions, stirring for a few
minutes until colors brighten and the vegetables soften slightly. Mix corn starch
into the marinade. Add the chicken to the vegetables and push the mixture away
from the center of the wok. Pour the marinade into the bare area of the wok and,
when it boils and starts to thicken, stir it into the vegetables and chicken. Toss
well to mix, drizzle with a few drops of the sesame oil and serve immediately
with white or brown rice.

Woks are quite affordable in Chinese food stores and make a convenient pan for
sautéing vegetables and meat in conventional recipes, for deep frying and really
are best to use in Chinese stir fries. All of the ingredients used here are found in
supermarkets now, so use your imagination to create healthy and fun stir fry for
the family.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm to
Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along with
his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill
Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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