Break out the chopsticks (recipe for ginger-hoisin chicken)
Chinese food was once mysterious and exotic. Growing up, it was not something we ever had at home and the only Chinese restaurant was downtown which itself seemed like another world compared to our suburban existence.
I remember going there on only a few occasions. The first few times were with my family when I was in elementary school. We would make the trip downtown, my mother would worry about exposing her children to the evils of the city, and my father would show off his parallel parking skills.
Lots of red and gold, paper lanterns, dragon murals, and sounds of the orient piped in through the speakers. That's what comes to mind when I think of this place. The family in charge were all dressed in high-collard silk uniforms with some sort of Asian print. We had the same waiter each time we went. My mother would fidget uncomfortably as he tousled my hair and proclaim, “Such a pretty boy!”
After those first few visits, several years went by before I went again. The next time was during my senior year of high school. My history teacher took a group of us out to lunch once a month. He tried his best to expose us to other cultures. The same waiter was there and had apparently acquired a better command of English – “Such pretty young ladies and handsome young men.” This was said with absolutely no hair tousling.
Of course, Chinese food isn’t nearly exotic today. Back in my hometown, as with most places, there are several Chinese restaurants including the ubiquitous all-you-can-eat buffets. Increasingly, much of the Asian Pacific Rim - Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese – is represented in the restaurant scenes of even mid-sized cities. The grocery stores too, have kept pace with many of the staples needed to make Asian food at home.
For the busy family, "Chinese" is a great choice for a quick meal that can include most of the food groups and be prepared with just a minimum of utensils. This recipe for Ginger-Hoisin Chicken features ingredients that can be found in almost any grocery store. Ginger will be in the produce section and hoisin sauce in the Asian food section near the soy sauce. Ginger has a fresh, bright taste and the thick and sweet hoisin is made from plums. It is sort of a kicked-up version of apple butter. This is bold and flavorful dish is a favorite at our house.
- 1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- One quarter cup water
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about two large cloves)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 4 boneless skinless breast halves
- 1 chopped green onion
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups assorted vegetables
Place the first eight ingredients into a gallon sized zip lock bag. Cut up the chicken into bite size pieces. Add these to the zip lock bag. Seal the bag and move the contents around so that the marinade is well mixed and the chicken is well coated. Put the bag in a bowl and place this in the refrigerator for eight to 24 hours (do this in the morning before work and it will be ready to go by the time you get home).
You can use just about any vegetable for this dish – broccoli, carrots, onions, peas, etc. I sometimes use frozen mixed vegetables. If using fresh, cut them into bite size pieces. If using frozen, heat them a bit in the microwave until almost thawed.
Heat a wok, electric skillet, or frying pan to medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and then add the vegetables and stir-fry for about 5 minutes or until they begin to just slightly brown. Remove the vegetables and add a bit more oil if needed. Next, dump in the chicken and marinade and stir-fry for about five minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Cut into a piece to make sure it is white all way through if needed. Add back in the vegetables and stir fry another half a minute. Serve this over white or brown rice.
Originally published August 25, 2005