Monday, January 5, 2009

Grandma Food: Hot Pepper Chicken

I am sure it will come as no surprise to lean that a Szechuan grandmother looks upon those bottles of pre-made 'Chinese' sauce in the grocery store with the same disdain an Italian Grandmother looks at Ragu. Those corn-syrup based sauces are for 'lazy' people who don't want to learn how to do things right. In the old days the sauce bases were made from honey or reduced fruit juice, much more work than a touch of sugar and water.

I am so fortunate to have been able to travel as much as I have and to have become friendly with some of the woman I meet shopping in Chinatown. The grandma secrets are not that hard, and the difference in quality...see for yourself. No swimming in grease corn syrup, corn starch mess will be presented here.

Hot Pepper Chicken...Grandma style Serves 4
1/2 pound of chopped chicken (Small bit sized pieces, I recommend thighs) boned or boneless
2 tablespoons of 5 spice powder
A few shakes of salt
A few shakes of black pepper
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/8 cup water (dissolve the sugar in the water)
1/8 cup BREWED soy sauce (read ingredients and avoid the fake grocery store brands)
1 ginger root peeled and sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 zucchini chopped in pieces roughly the same size as the chicken
As many peppers as you can stand, whole chopped, or split
peanut oil
A wok*

*If you don't have a wok, it is a good kitchen investment. You can not get a nonstick skillet hot enough to cook as quickly as you can in a wok. Improvise if you have to but a wok is a very good thing to have around.

Sprinkle the chicken with the 5 spice. Leave for half and hour, go watch the news.

Have a little water by the side of your wok and some rice cooking in another pot.

Heat the wok as hot as you can get it, turn the stove fan on, it's going to be smoking in a minute.

Toss in a bit of peanut oil and the chicken. Toss and sear, when cooked remove to a bowl.

Throw in the water/sugar mix. Toss it around a little in a couple of minutes it will begin to become golden, then Carmel. Anytime after golden throw in your flavorings, your garlic, ginger and peppers. (for my lesson we used one Thai chili and two Serrano's. At home I used 5 Jalapenos, both made a nicely hot dish, use a milder pepper if you are a wimp.) These flavoring agents cook quickly but if it starts to darken throw a touch of water in the mix.

Zucchini next, it will ad it's own bit of water, cook about 1 minute til tender and then throw the chicken back in along with the soy sauce. Toss until the sauce is fully clinging to the meat and there is no pool of liquid.

Serve with rice.

It's that simple and there is nothing greasy or goopy about this dish. You don't need La Choy, just a few Grandmother's for friends.

You can eat around the ginger and the pepper if you are afraid of those bursts of flavor...I relish them. They are Chinese comfort food.


Fan of Grandma Food said...

When I got food on the street in China you can watch it being cooked. Other than soy sauce, I never saw a sauce, I saw ingredients. Real fermented black beans, lemongrass, ginger, even fresh herbs for some dishes. The food was so much more exciting than what I get in the states. San Francisco has some pretty good chinese, but nothing compares to the old people and their woks on the gas burners in the public markets.

Moon said...

This is a good reminder to teach my children the old ways. I was widowed and we rely pretty heavily on take out, but it is important to pass down the knowledge...even if I don't use it every day.

Mal said...

I have been looking for a good, and at least PARTLY authentic hot pepper chicken recipe. Thank you so much, this recipe looks perfect.
I'm so pumped to try it.