Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Naxi-Style Chicken from Kylie Kwong's My China

I got Kylie Kwong's My China from my mother-in-law last Christmas. This is the first time I've made recipes from this book. I'd read it all before and to tell you the truth, the writing which recounts Kwong's culinary adventure through China is kind of bland. The writing feels only like a play by play account of her trip with no real depth of flavour. The same, thankfully, cannot be said of her recipes.

I made two recipes from My China. The first was simply called "Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts, Snow Peas and Garlic Chives". Basically, you chop a bulb of garlic in half, let it sear in a wok in some peanut oil then add snow peas sea salt and shao hsing wine. I had to make a special trip to my local Asian food store to find the cooking wine but it was well worth it. Along with bean sprouts and a dollop of rich sesame oil (I couldn't find any garlic chives) the plate was simple, quick to make and as authentically Chinese as I know authentic Chinese to be. Not this chicken fried rice with deep-fried chicken balls drenched in goopy red sauce like we have in our Chinese-Canadian restaurants.

The second recipe from My China was a bit more complex but not by much. Alot of the recipes repeat themselves in Kwong's recipes which is, to the best of my knowledge, the way Chinese cooks tend to prepare their various recipes. "Naxi-Style Chicken with Chillies, Green Pepper and Peanuts" calls for cubed tender chicken thighs - arguably the best part of the chicken after the tenderloin and the "oysters" - marinated in corn starch for an hour. You then infuse equal parts of shao hsing wine and peanut oil with chillies. I only had Mexican style chillies but the recipe doesn't specify which kind of dried chillies are required or best for the dish. It just says dried red chillies.

Once you've removed the chillies from the oil, you then proceed to cook half of the chicken, remove it, add more oil and cook the rest of the chicken. You then dump the first half of chicken in along with reserved chillies, some ginger, a chopped green pepper and a chopped cucumber. Stir-fry then add brown sugar to caramelize things a bit. After that, you add half a cup of roasted unsalted peanuts, light soy sauce and brown rice vinegar (I only had regular rice vinegar). Stir-fry for 30 seconds in your very hot work and voilĂ ! You've got "authentic" Chinese food.

The best part about these recipes is that their easy, quick and really taste like Chinese food ought to taste like. It's fresh, loaded with vegetables and quite easy to make. Kudos to Kwong even though she has to work a bit on her literary skills.

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