The joy of Chinese chicken

Sichuan chicken with sweet peppers

- Advertisement -

There comes a time in the life of all skottel-equipped stir-fry mechanics when they want to break with the greasy past and embrace the high heat of the new. In the exciting world of Chinese-influenced cooking, the only way to go is authenticity, in equipment and supplies. Instead of a skottel, let me suggest a wok. And instead of the usual heavy reliance on MSG-enhanced sauces and condiments, here’s the chance to cook with sichuan peppers x a seasoning agent both novel and subtle, yet destined to revolutionise your expectations of Chinese-influenced cuisine.

To make sichuan chicken for four, you will need:
• 800g chicken breasts

• 50mm fresh root ginger

• 2 cloves garlic

• 3 small Chinese cabbages

• 3 spring onions

• 3 red or green sweet peppers

• 2 tablespoons medium dry Cape sherry

• 2 tablespoons dark soya sauce

• 1 teaspoon sesame oil

• 2 teaspoons brown sugar

• 2 red or green chillies

• 1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppers

• 0,5 cup peanut oil

If Peanut Oil is unavailable, add a teaspoon of peanut butter to canola or sunflower oil. The big deal in this method is high heat. High heat and oil make one hell of a mess, with the inevitable spattering, plus the atomised oil in the air. What goes up must come down, and airborne oil coats every hard-to-reach surface in the kitchen. The wise cook does his wok stuff outside, over a friendly Cadac. U sing the heavy knife of your choice – may I suggest an original Chinese-made stainless-steel cleaver available from Asian supermarkets – fillet and skin the breasts. Cut meticulously into 5mm strips, keeping the slices uniform in all dimensions. This not only looks good but, given the stopwatch-driven short cooking times, ensures that cooking is even throughout. Peel and crush the garlic; peel and finely chop the ginger. Remove the roots and any bruised leaves from the spring onions, then cut into 15mm sections on the diagonal, a decorative flourish called “horses’ ears”. Finely chop the chillies, leaving the pips in the mix. Top, tail and de-pip the sweet peppers, then cut into uniform strips. Chop the Chinese cabbages. If these are unavailable, use regular cabbages instead. T horoughly mix the seasoning in a bottle, combining the soya sauce, sherry, sesame oil and brown sugar. Heat your wok over a high gas flame. The keyword here is “high”. Pour in the peanut oil and bring to smoking heat. Be warned, these are dangerous times. Pour in half the chicken and stir-fry with great energy for 60 seconds. Remove and reserve in a covered bowl. Repeat with the rest of the chicken. D rain off all but three tablespoons of the oil. Bring to medium heat, then add the garlic, ginger and chillies. Stir-fry for 45 seconds, then add the spring onion for 30 seconds, followed by the sweet peppers and the cabbage for 45 seconds. Avoid burning! Return the chicken to the pan and stir well to combine with the spices and vegetables. Pour in the mixed seasoning and add the sichuan peppers. Stir very well, adding salt if necessary. Serve at once over white rice or Chinese noodles. Nothing goes better with this combination of unexpected tastes than a couple of near-freezing imported Pilsners. – David Basckin |fw

- Advertisement -