Celebrate the Chinese New Year four days late with my take on this fast food favourite that probably isn't Chinese anyway.
I'll admit it: even I, on occasion, succumb to temptation and order myself sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice from the local takeaway. It sounds like a good idea at the time but I always find myself thinking "hmm... that was expensive and it tasted crap". Some kind of love/hate thing going on there.
This chicken stir fry is lighter than the deep fried balls of crap you get from your takeaway, and the sauce has the lovely flavour of real ingredients rather than the usual mix of Toilet Duck and communism. You can vary the ingredients if you like, e.g. by using mushrooms and bell peppers. The sweet and sour sauce would also make a nice dipping sauce for canapes at a middle class dinner party.
Stir fry ingredients (to serve two):
- 200g basmati rice
- 1 free range egg
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 large carrot
- 3 savoy cabbage leaves
- 5ish spring onions
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tbsps vegetable oil
Sweet and sour sauce ingredients (vary to taste)
- Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
- Small splash of rice vinegar
- 2 tbsps dark soy sauce
- 3 tbsps soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- Juice from a small tin of pineapple rings
- 1 tsp English mustard
- 2 tsps Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 garlic cloves
- 100ml chicken stock
- 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsps tomato puree
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Soak your rice in about 300ml cold water for about twenty minutes, then bring it to the boil and stir it ONCE, then turn the heat right down low (or off completely on an electric hob - you could even take it off the heat temporarily to speed this bit up) to let it steam. When it's all clumped together, which should take about 10 minutes, drain any excess water and let it rest while you get on with the other stuff.
- Heat some vegetable oil in a non-stick saucepan. Peel your ginger and finely chop it along with the garlic. Add to the oil (not too hot or the garlic will burn), then add your five spice powder and dried chilli flakes. When it's all fragrant, add the flour to make a sort of roux (this will thicken the sauce without making it lumpy). Next, cook the tomato puree out a bit, and finally, chuck everything else in. Bring it to the boil and then simmer it briskly until it reduces to a consistency you like.
- Meanwhile, heat a wok up - you want it pretty damn hot. The key to a good stir fry (not that I'm really an expert in this kind of cooking) is to have everything ready chopped, otherwise your ingredients will burn while you're adding the next lot. Remove the stems from the cabbage leaves and roughly chop them. Peel and julienne the carrots (that means chop them into little thin strips) and finely slice the spring onions. Slice the chicken breast thinly.
- When the wok is hot, make sure your smoke alarm is not going to get a whiff of anything and add some oil to the pan. Season your chicken strips and chuck them in the pan, tossing them around so that they don't stick (if you're a bit of a lad - if not, use a wooden spoon). Then add your veg in order of density until the chicken is cooked through, the carrots are al-dente and the cabbage has wilted a bit.
- Finally, put the rice in the wok and break in an egg, then stir fry it so that little bits of scrambled egg get spread around the mixture and serve it immediately with the sweet and sour sauce.