So, we have reached the letter W in cooking around the world. Did you know that there are no countries that begin with W? When I first started this project, I didn’t. Anyway, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. I could do Wales as a few people had suggested, but we just had the United Kingdom a few weeks ago. Or I could skip it, but that seemed sad. Nope, I decided to make W a wild card. We’d select whatever country we wanted! I left it up to Brendan to pick, and he settled on China. So, authentic Chinese food it was!
Now, I love Chinese food. The first time Brendan and I hung out, in fact, included some pretty crappy delivery. I ordered lo mien, but ended up eating his sweet and sour chicken because mine was just so…blech. Moving up from greasy take out, I’m pretty obsessed with PF Changs. They have an extensive gluten free menu, and their food is always fresh and flavorful. Of course, the closest one is about 45 minutes from our apartment, and I’m not really sure how authentic their food is. But still…delicious!
Anyway, the whole goal for cooking around the world was to make authentic replications of world cuisine. As such, I felt like frying up some sweet and sour shrimp was out of the question. In my research, I came across a blog written by a woman born and raised in the Sichuan province of China. Now that sounded promising! I decided on Kung Pao Chicken, a dish that is served in US restaurants, but made it the more traditional way. As a side dish, I chose eggplant in garlic sauce. Apparently this, too, is a traditional Sichuan dish. My Chinese dinner was really shaping up!
All things considered, Brendan and I were really pleased with how these dishes turned out. The chicken itself is very flavorful, but far spicier than what you’d find in American restaurants. Brendan, who has embraced all things spicy, needed milk to get through dinner. But despite the heat, we both really enjoyed it. The peanuts add a nice contrast in texture and the scallions provide a freshness to the dish. And the eggplant was fantastic. One of my favorite items to order at Chinese restaurants, the eggplant was perfectly soft without being mushy. Honestly, I could have made an entire meal out of that alone.
Up next is the letter X. Unsurprisingly, there are no countries beginning with that letter either, so I think we’ll be selecting something else. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from http://www.chinasichuanfood.com/kung-pao-chicken/
- ¾ – 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
- ½ small onion, diced
- 10 dried chili peppers, seeds removed and cut into ¼” pieces
- Canola Oil
- ½ tsp peppercorns (although, next time I’d just use ground pepper)
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp white wine
- 1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tbsp chopped scallion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- Combine cornstarch and white wine into a thin paste. Pour over chicken and marinate for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients in the sauce.
- In canola oil over medium heat, cook chicken completely. Remove chicken from pan.
- In the remaining oil, sauté together the onion, chili peppers, and peppercorns, for about a minute. Add the chicken back to the pot and stir in the sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.
- Stir in onions, and cook for about a minute more. Serve hot, over rice. Garnish with fresh scallions.
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
- 1 small – medium eggplant, sliced into 1” pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 scallion, chopped
- Canola Oil
- 1 tbsp chili sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp. rice vinegar
- ½ tbsp. white wine
- Pinch sugar
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, cook eggplant for one minute. Drain, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the sauce.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté together ginger, garlic, and scallion in canola oil for about 10 – 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Whisk in chili sauce.
- Add eggplant, and stir in sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve hot.