Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Chicken...

If you glance at the ingredient list for this Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Chicken dish that I made for dinner tonight, it might look fairly daunting at first and not reasonable for a weeknight meal. However, taken step by step, it really isn't too bad and it comes together in a flash once the ingredients hit the heat.

The first step is to create a brew that a pound of sliced chicken breasts will sit in. The ingredients used here are soy sauce, fresh ginger, tamari, Shaoxing, pepper, a couple garlic cloves and a spoonful of cornstarch. If you've never used tamari before, it is similar to soy sauce, but has a more complex flavor, is darker and is typically wheat free (though you always want to check the label to be sure!), making for a great alternative for those who are sensitive to wheat. Shaoxing is an aged Chinese rice wine - if you can't locate this in your area, you could swap it out for dry sherry. While the chicken sits, we prepared the sauce that goes in later before we got to work on the vegetables. To a half cup of broth, we whisked in ketchup, a touch of brown sugar, chile paste for bite, toasted sesame oil, cornstarch to thicken and more soy sauce to play off the chicken with a salty edge.

To get the vegetables goin', we diced up a mess of red bell pepper, onion and green onions - while the original called for green bell peppers too, their harshness just isn't for us. If you groove on that, use half red and half green. To help keep the vegetables crisp, yet with a little tender give, they are only cooked for a few minutes and then scooped out. A little more oil went into the same skillet, followed by the chicken mixture that had been lounging around. As soon as it goes in, be sure to arrange the chicken in a single layer so it all gets direct contact with the heat.

After letting the chicken cook through, the vegetables are tossed back in, along with the cornstarch-laced broth mixture and diced pieces of sweet, fresh pineapple. At this point, everything is cooked as much as it needs to be - the liquids just need to reach a boil to activate the cornstarch, which then turns the sauce into a tantalizing thick glossy glaze.

Lighter than the versions you might find at your local restaurant, we found this to be just as tasty with a fresher feeling and not very difficult to prepare. Serving this over a batch of nutty brown basmati rice (prepared using our favorite no-fuss method) made for a dish that definitely made our stomachs full and happy! This would also be great served over noodles if you are so inclined - you may want to think about doubling the broth mixture though so you'll end up with a more saucy result (rather than more of a glaze) to lube up the noodles.


  1. Oh wow, I saw the "spicy" in your title and it caught my interest. Sounds and looks divine!

  2. Good idea to use basmatic rice! Mouthwatering pictures.

  3. What a great meal. I'll have to make it.

  4. Mmm, this dish sounds fabulous. I've never used Shaoxing. I can't wait to try it out in the recipe! I think I'll definitely be able to find it. There are so many Asian groceries in Berkeley; it's like heaven!!

  5. Jennifer - It had a nice bite!

    Nopham - We thought it worked well here.

    Helene - Do make it!

    Elyse - Hope you can pick up a bottle!