Spicy, salty, sour, sweet, crunchy, saucy..pause for a moment to dream up a dish with a niftily balanced amalgamation of all your favorite tastes, and in all likelihood, a chipper Chinese take-out container will appear, bearing the tongue-tingling answer in its contents. The lure of the sear of the skillet is irresistable for most foodies..and in a cuisine where the quest for authenticity amongst its fanatics is a lost cause in the sea of sizzling passion toward popular fusion fare. Take for instance, the Indianized-Chinese favorite, Chopsuey, with its sunny disposition, the frisky fried egg on top virtually begging to be forked into, with slickly-sauced, deep-fried noodles like a hidden treasure, underneath. Or, the Asian-American classic, General Tso’s Chicken – with crispy chunks of breaded chicken laced with the proverbial brown sauce, and the heat index dimmed down a touch to suit milder palates. Or say, the Veg Chowmein dished out in the crammed confines of a Punjabi sweet stall in Delhi, adjacent to a chaat bhandaar.
As for us, we’re perpetually in awe of the street smarts of Chinese restaurateurs who welcome starving diners on New Year’s day and rake in the moolah while their multi-cuisine counterparts routinely shut shop. We’re also mesmerized by the competent chefs at our local Stir Crazy bar as they flare up the wide-mouthed wok with the élan of Cirque De Soleil fire-eaters, cooking up a fittingly seasoned, savory meal in a matter of minutes. With no shiny lacquerware to ceremoniously pour some tea into, nor a raven fry pan that has withstood the test of a few hundred fires to rave about, we’re content to just hang our hats for our Stirred Crazy series, and let the finely nuanced sauces in our creations speak for themselves. First up is the Hot Wok Chicken – a fiery and florid preparation with the perfect pitch of flavors that will tickle your Chinese-craving taste buds right after the first bite.
- 1.2 lb chicken breasts, cleaned and cut into medium-sized chunks
- 1 Tablespoon oil for frying
For the marinade –
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or corn flour
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 Teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon oil
Whisk together all of the above and mix the chicken cubes in, allowing to sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
Heat a wok with the oil and fry the chicken pieces on a medium-high flame for about 12-14 minutes or until cooked. The flour coating tends to stick to the wok, so be careful not to stir too hard lest the chicken pieces disintegrate. Remove and keep the shallow-fried chicken pieces aside in a bowl.
For the Stir Fry –
- 1-2 Tablespoons oil
- 2 Red chillies
- 1/2 Tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 Medium-sized onion, sliced thin and long
- 1 each of red and green bell peppers, sliced thin and long
- 4 Pods of garlic, minced fine
- Salt and pepper according to taste
- 1 Tablespoon finely grated ginger
- A handful of roasted peanuts
For the sauce, whisk the following together, keep aside –
- 2 Tablespoons ketchup
- 1-2 Tablespoons hot sauce like Sriracha
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Teaspoon honey
- 1 Teaspoon cornstarch or corn flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 Cup water
Warm the oil in the wok and throw in the chillies and sesame seeds, frying briskly for a minute or two. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, frying continuously on a medium-high flame for about 4-5 minutes, until just tender, then season with salt and pepper. Add the ginger and peanuts, the chicken pieces and and then pour in the sauce. Toss everything together until the sauce thickens and everything is well-coated, for about 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and serve hot with white or brown rice.
- For a vegetarian version, replace the chicken with tofu, mushroom or even paneer for a fiery Stirred Crazy creation.
- Alter the spice, heat and sauce quantities according to preference. This recipe makes a moderately hot and spicy dish.
- You could use more colored pepper varieties if you so please, to add an extra pop of color to this dish. You could even use some celery for a touch of zing.
- If you prefer noodles over rice, flat rice or wheat noodles go just as well with this dish.