Monday, October 29, 2007

Paging Ming Tsai: Light Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

Until recently, most of my efforts to make Chinese food at home have been met with repulsion, lingering depression, and perhaps some vomit. Fried rice, especially, has been a total disaster. Eggs shouldn’t be that grey. Or grey at all, really. But, convinced of my blossoming mastery over all things kitchen-related, I boldly plunged forward, repeating mistakes and cultivating culinary ignorance on a level unmatched by other mortals. It took a couple hundred soy sauce-based catastrophes to finally dawn on me that I should be CONSULTING A RECIPE. D'oh!

As it turns out, Chinese cooking (unlike scratching your nose or wanting to slap Paris Hilton) isn’t intuitive. There are principles and methods and ingredients specific to certain dishes, which themselves are specific to certain regions. Slamming a vegetable and some chicken in a pan and calling it stirfry doesn’t cut the mustard.

I’ve only just begun to approximate real Chinese food, and this recipe, adapted from Weight Watchers’ General Tsao’s Chicken, is one of the first I tried that fit the bill. Up top, the green onions, red pepper flakes, and garlic are sautéed in peanut oil, which lends the dish its spice and fragrance. Further down, the thickened sauce and touch of crisp, fresh broccoli approximates an authenticity not found in “Look, Ma! I added marinade! It’s Chinese now!” dishes. And while it’s great for dieters, it’s filling enough for regular, non-calorie counting folks, too. There are a few of you out there, right? (Hi Mom!)

I’d suggest pairing it with this egg drop soup, or just a plain ol’ salad, maybe with Sesame-type dressing. The leftovers (warmed, if there are any) are pretty sweet, too. Plus, your co-workers will wonder who got Chinese food for lunch.

Light Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
3 servings
Adapted from Weight Watchers.

3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons peanut oil
2 medium scallions, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like spice)
1/2 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 heaping cup cut broccoli florets
2 cup cooked white rice, kept hot

1) Combine broth, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

2) In medium saucepan, bring a few cups of water to a boil. Add broccoli and cook for 3-1/2 minutes. Drain and IMMEDIATELY and run under very cold water to stop the cooking process.

3) In a large skillet, heat peanut oil over medium-high heat. Saute scallions, garlic, and red pepper flakes for 2 minutes. Add chicken and cook until browned, about 5 more minutes.

4) Turn the heat down to medium. Pour in reserved marinade and simmer about 3 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked and sauce is thickened to your liking. Do not overcook or the sauce will become gooey.

5) Add broccoli, stir, and warm through, about 1 or 2 minutes. Don't do this any sooner, or the broccoli will fall apart.

6) Serve over rice.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
387 calories, 6.8 g fat, $0.95

3/4 cup chicken broth: 65 calories, 2.2 g fat, $0.18
2 Tbsp cornstarch: 61 calories, 0 g fat, $0.06
2 Tbsp sugar: 93 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
2 Tbsp soy sauce: 17 calories, 0 g fat, $0.19
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar: negligible calories and fat, $0.08
1/2 tsp ground ginger: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 tsp peanut oil: 80 calories, 9 g fat, $0.07
2 medium scallion(s), chopped: 10 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.30
2 medium garlic clove(s), minced: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
Heaping 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.10
1/2 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast: 375 calories, 8.1 g fat, $0.99
1 heaping cup of cut broccoli: 39 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.50
2 cup cooked white rice, kept hot: 411 calories, 0.9 g fat, $0.22
TOTAL: 1160 calories, 20.5 g fat, $2.84
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 387 calories, 6.8 g fat, $0.95

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AmyinMotown said...

This is my first time here (well, OK, Saturday when I went grocery shopping was) and I'm very excited about trying more stuff you post. I made this tonight and it was a HUGE win, even my picky almost two-year-old loved it and my five year old requested the leftovers be packed for her lunch at school tomorrow. I too have a spotty history with attempts at Chinese cooking and this just turned out beautfully, even though I tinkered a bit (used water instead of chicken broth, more chicken and broccoli to stretch it for four people and more soy sauce to make up for that missing flavor from the chicken broth. And more garlic, just because that's how I roll). Thanks!! This goes in the "family repertoire" file!

Kris said...

Amy, that's fantastic! I'm so glad it worked for you, and welcome to CHG.

KHarps said...

I stumbled across this website yesterday at work when I was bored and loved what I read! I decided to make this "light chinese chicken and broccoli" tonight for my fiance and we both LOVED it! It is by far the best Chinese food dish we have ever attempted to make. I can't wait to try more recipes from here!! You have a new fan :-)

MagnoliaSouth said...

I go to Walmart and for a 32-oz container of Walmart brand chicken broth, it's $1.98 but you're getting broth $0.96 for 32-oz. That's a significant difference! Most of the groceries you have listed here are like that with a huge discrepancy. Where exactly are you getting these groceries, if you don't mind my asking? I hope it's not Costco because I don't have one of those here and even if I did, I couldn't buy a gallon of broth. I don't have room for that stuff. :(