I have been hinting around for a copy of The Chinese Take Out Cookbook but so far Ryan hasn’t taken the bait. Luckily, Diana Kuan has some of her recipes posted on her website. The other night, I made her Sweet and Sour Chicken and heavens to Betsy, it was good and this coming from a Chinese take-out lover.
The chicken was crispy but still moist, the sauce (although maybe a bit thin) was light and sweet. I really don’t have much to add to her recipe because I followed it step for step. Oh minus the ginger-I-thought-was-sitting-on-the-window-sill-but-wasn’t-when-I-started-to-cook.
The chicken is cut into 1 inch cubes, coated with egg whites and cornstarch then deep fried. While they drained I whipped up the sauce, put it in the (wiped out) pan over heat to thicken up. Then in with the pineapples and meat. Delicious! Like I said, the sauce was a bit thin, but I think that’s mostly because I added some of the pineapple juice in with my pineapple chunks. She didn’t specify, but now I see it made it too thin. She suggests using a wok, but my deep skillet worked perfect for this one-pan dish.
I served the chicken on the side of stir fried veggies (nothing special besides veggies sauteed in the skillet with hot hot oil) and an oven baked egg roll. We can’t be fancy all the time.
This is the first Asian meal I’ve made since reading Consider the Fork. It was neat to see the principles Bee Wilson explains in action. When discussing Asian cooking and eating, Wilson emphasizes it’s efficiency. The chef takes extra time preparing everything, cutting meat into bite sized pieces, so that the eater can use one hand to pick up each bite — using chopsticks and no knife. Further, meals are planned to be cooked quickly in one dish, namely the wok. Indeed making this sweet and sour chicken, the only extra dishes I needed was one bowl to mix the sauce in and one bowl to separate the egg whites. Really, if I were more confident in my egg separating skills I could have done without that bowl. And the oil gets so hot to fry the chicken that the pan is still hot enough, even off the heat, to thicken the sauce right after.
It changed my perspective while cutting the chicken. Normally this is an area I’m a bit lazy in. I’ll leave a piece or two a little bit bigger thinking that it can just be cut in two at the table. But the fact of the matter is, the quick cooking time depends on all the pieces of chicken being small and uniform. A larger piece of chicken would not have been cooked all the way through in such a short cook time. Cooking the chicken longer, to ensure it was safely cooked through, would run the risk of making the coating soggy and not tight and crisp. How neat! I guess Asians have been cooking for such a long time they really have worked all the kinks out!
I’ve been anxious to make her General Tso’s Chicken but I’m going to have to wait until I have more time to do it, It doesn’t seem like a quick throw together kind of meal. But after the success of the Sweet and Sour Chicken, I may just have to find time to make General Tso.