Chicken Lo Mein

There are usually only three things that I’ll want when ordering Chinese takeout. These three things are also the standard by which I judge whether or not the place has good food or not. I figure that they’re deceptively simple; not hard to do per se, but also so simple that they’re easy to mess up. When they’re done badly, they’re awful. When they’re done well, they’re fantastic.

Sesame chicken.

Lo mein.

Egg rolls.

Together they’re the perfect trifecta of takeout. The only thing better than finding a great place that makes it, is being able to make it yourself at home. (Not to mention, it’s cheaper.)

I’ve been making my own egg rolls and lo mein for several years now. I posted the recipe for the egg rolls here shortly after first starting Cooking is My Sport, but I waited to post my recipe for lo mein. I wanted to wait and see if I could improve it while also keeping it pretty simple, with ingredients that could be found in most general grocery stores.

This is a great weeknight meal to make. Once you get all of the ingredients together and prepped, the dish comes together pretty quickly. I used cabbage and carrots with the noodles and chicken, but if there is any other vegetable that you prefer to have instead, feel free to use it. Stir fries are very flexible recipes and this one is no exception. The sauce for the noodles is sweet from hoisin, salty from the soy sauce and tangy from the rice wine vinegar. It’s delicious, and I’ve found myself using it for more than just a stir-fry sauce. I’ve used it as a dipping sauce for egg rolls, spread it on sandwiches–it’s that good.

Now I just have to get around to making my own Sesame Chicken. TBC.

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Chicken Lo Mein

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • onion powder
  • ground ginger
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

For Stir Fry

  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 20 oz. shredded cabbage
  • 10 oz. shredded carrots
  • About 15 oz of your choice of Asian style noodles (I prefer wide and flat ones, like Guan Miao Sliced Noodles)
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • peanuts and sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Arrange chicken in one layer in a sheet pan. In a small cup, stir together 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar.

Sprinkle an even coating of onion powder, ground ginger and black pepper on both sides. Pour the soy sauce-vinegar marinade over the chicken, stirring it a few times to make sure it’s evenly coated. Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup combine the 1 cup of hoisin sauce, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and whisk together with a fork. Set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok or other large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken to the wok and cook on both sides until it’s cooked through. (You may have to do this in batches).When the chicken is done, remove it to a separate platter and keep loosely covered.

When chicken has finished cooking, heat some more oil into the wok. When it’s nice and hot, add the carrots and cabbage to the wot and allow to cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to another platter, and wipe the skillet clean.

Meanwhile, cook your noodles according to the package directions and drain when they’re finished. Keep the heat on the stove up on high and add 1 more tablespoon of oil to it. Add everything back to the wok/skillet: chicken, vegetables and noodles, and stir together. Pour the stir fry sauce from the glass measuring cup over the lo mein and stir quickly so that it’s evenly mixed. (You may not need to use it all; it all depends on how ‘saucy’ you want the lo mein to be. Use your own discretion.) Allow to cook for 1-2 more minutes–this is just to make the sauce coat the noodles.

Remove from the heat and add the fresh mint and green onion to the lo mein. Sprinkle with the peanuts and sesame seeds.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #259, co-hosted this week by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Banh Mi Spring Rolls

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The weather here’s been just beautiful this week and I think it’s finally safe to say that we’ve left winter behind us–though you never really can tell in Michigan. You just take things as they come day by day and pray that the weather report for tomorrow is actually going to be semi-accurate. This week’s forecast was for sunny skies and mid-to upper 70’s.

And guess what? That’s EXACTLY what we’ve been getting. Which, makes me happy. I’m already excited for Memorial Day when my older sister (who’s good at barbecuing/grilling) can fire up our charcoal grill with the meat and I (who am NOT good at grilling whatsoever) can make everything else. Heh.

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Today’s recipe really complements the summer weather, as it’s one where you’re not going to need to crank up the oven and make your house/apartment anymore stuffy than it may be already if you’re trying to wait as long as possible to turn on the A/C (like us lol) Additionally, if you’ve got a grocery store in your area that makes good rotisserie chickens, then over half the work’s already done for you.

I was a Banh Mi late bloomer. Up until a couple years ago, I wasn’t even 100% sure of how to pronounce it correctly. (It’s okay if you still don’t either and go from here to Google to find out; that’s how I learned too.)Typically, it’s a Vietnamese sandwich consisting of a crusty baguette style bread that’s split in half and layered with marinated grilled pork or chicken, fresh herbs, and pickled carrots and radishes. I’ve seen versions that also involve pate spreads and spicy chili sauces, but at its core, the above is a good place to start for a Banh Mi virgin.

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Banh Mi sandwiches, if you’ve got a place that can REALLY do them well, are bound to become a quick favorite. Seriously, they’re just really hard NOT to like. There’s a Vietnamese/Creole (yeah, I know. Peculiar combination)  restaurant just down the road from where I live that makes them and also made the meal that served as my official induction into the club of Banh Mi sandwich appreciation. There’s also another dish that they make that I simply MUST get each and every time I go there: the spring rolls.

Up until this place opened, I had also never had a Spring Roll that wasn’t made of the standard egg wrappers and fried in oil. I’d certainly see and heard of the translucent rice paper wrappers, but never tried them before and of course–never prepared a dish with them.

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Like the Banh Mi sandwich, from that first taste I got of a rice paper spring roll,  I was just hooked. First of all, the restaurant’s seasoning of the pork inside was sublime, and the even though they crammed it full of both meat, veggies and herbs I still walked away from the meal without feeling ‘too full’. There was just a wonderfully refreshing ‘lightness’ to those rice paper spring rolls that’s really made me never want to go back to the old fried way I used to eat them.

Although, don’t get  it twisted: I still have MAD love for a deep fried egg roll. That, I’m never changing my mind and/or taste buds about.

What’s so great about today’s recipe is that it combines both of the dishes from the Vietnamese restaurant near me and makes it into a dish that gives me the best of both worlds; the core elements of the Banh Mi sandwich are rolled altogether in the spring roll rice paper to make a super delicious appetizer, snack, side dish or even meal if you’re game for eating several of these bad boys. I know I am.

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This was my first time quick-pickling veggies and using rice paper wrappers and I was pleased to find out it wasn’t that big a deal. Once you’ve rolled your share of egg rolls (and I have) then using the wet rice paper isn’t that big of a challenge. Just as few minor tips:

Make sure your cucumbers are sliced VERY thin, or they may tear or poke holes through the wet rice paper. Be sure to roll you ingredients up nice and tight. Place the finished rolls seam side down once you’re finished to help them “seal” better while you make the rest. AND most important: keep the leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap to keep the rice paper rolls moist. They have a tendency to get a little chewy and tough when left exposed to the air for too long, even if you keep them in plastic containers.

These are super yummy, guys. The pickled carrot and radish provides a tangy acidity that isn’t overpowering when tempered with the savory chicken that’s been juuuuuuust slightly sweetened from being mixed with the Chinese five-spice powder. Depending on the herb(s) you decide to use you’re going to have a different flavor profile but because I prefer it’s mild sweetness I went with the fresh mint leaves that paired very well with the cucumber. This is PERFECT summer food, plain and simple.

I’ll be bringing my spring rolls to this week’s Fiesta Friday #120, co-hosted this week by Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Linda @ Fabulous Fare Sisters. Thanks ladies.

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Banh Mi Spring Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com

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Ingredients

For Pickled Veggies:

  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (3-ounce) carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 (3-ounce) daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks

For Spring Rolls

  • 8 to 10 rice paper wrappers
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (small leaves)

Directions

To Make Pickled Veggies:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the carrot and daikon and let cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to stuff into rolls.

To Assemble Spring Rolls:

Fill a round cake pan with warm water. Place 1 rice paper round into the water, turning it gently with your fingertips until softened. Carefully remove the sheet from the water and lay it flat on a plate.

Toss the chicken with the five-spice powder. Arrange some of the seasoned chicken in a horizontal line on the wrapper, positioning it about 1 inch or so from the edge nearest you and about 1⁄2 inch from each side.

Top with some of the drained pickled veggies, cucumber, and a sprinkle of mint leaves.

Lift the edge of the rice paper nearest you and place it over the filling, then roll once to form a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides of the rice paper and continue to roll to form a tight cylinder (be careful not to rip the rice paper).

Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling. Cut each roll in half crosswise at a diagonal and serve with the dipping sauce, if you like. To store, wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Sho Nuff Noodles

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Am I the meanest? Sho’nuff! 

Am I the prettiest?  Sho’nuff!

Am I the baddest mofo low down around this town? Sho’nuff!

Well who am I? Sho’nuff!

Who am I? Sho’nuff!

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Oh, hi guys. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy or full of myself. The above is a movie quote. I decided to open up this post with the direct inspiration/reference for this recipe. Kudos/gold stars/props to anybody out there that knows it on their own. You and I would probably be best buddies if we knew each other outside of the blogosphere.

In 1985, record label executive and legend Berry Gordy and the folks at Motown produced a martial arts/musical movie called “The Last Dragon”. Although it wasn’t exactly a critical success at the time of it being made, it is now considered to be a cult classic of Black cinema. And rightly so; it’s one of my favorite films,especially when you’re watching with a crowd of friends who can quote the movie with you.

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As it turns out, the film is also well-loved by one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Marcus Samuelsson. I follow him on Pinterest/Twitter and one day I saw a recipe pop up in my feed. It wasn’t just the picture that caught my attention, although that was mouth-watering enough to draw me in. It was also the name that he gave the dish that made me immediately want to look into what I would need to make it. Any “Last Dragon” fan worth their salt knows the name of the antagonist of the plot: Sho Nuff.  He’s the kung-fu neighborhood bully who is constantly challenging the protagonist, Leroy Green to a winner-take-all fight. He also travels around with an entourage of people, where he constantly makes them say his name like some kind of a pep rally cheer- hence, the quote.

Once I saw the dish, I knew I had to try it out just to see how Chef Marcus would translate the bold and bodacious personality of the character, into food. It’s not the first dish of his that I’ve tried to interpret and like all the others, this one did not disappoint either.

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I will admit however, the one “draw-back” to this recipe is that in order to make it, you will probably need to purchase the majority of the sauce ingredients from an Asian market. If you don’t have one of those, then online ordering is gonna have to be the way to go. To be honest, I’d never heard of some of them before seeing this ingredient list– but I will say that when combined all together, they make a sauce that is friggin DELICIOUS.

So yes, it is worth it.

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Another awesome thing about this recipe is that it’s versatile enough for those who are watching their carb-intake to still be able to enjoy it. So to adapt this recipe with my own personal spin, I took the liberty of making this dish with both regular lo mein noodles AND Shiritaki noodles. Both turned out fabulously and I’ve included the preparation directions for both in the recie. Also, because I’m also a carnivore you guys know I had to throw some meat in there for the added protein to make this more of a filling meal and less as an appetizer. Also, I threw in some sesame seeds because…why not?

Should you go the extra mile and make this dish? Sho Nuff.

Happy Fiesta Friday #119 and thanks to our co-hosts  Ahila @ A Taste of Sri Lankan Cuisine and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Sho Nuff Noodles

Recipe Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp black bean sauce
  • 1 tbsp kecap manis
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp yuzu kosho
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1⁄4 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 oz shredded cabbage
  • 1 baby bok choy, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, 3⁄4 cut into 2″ pieces
  • 8 oz cooked lo mein noodles (OR 8 oz. Shiritaki noodles, drained; see directions below on how to prepare for this recipe)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced (or any other protein you prefer)
  • sesame seeds, optional

Directions

Mix black bean sauce, kecap manis, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, yuzu, ginger, and caraway in a bowl; set sauce aside.

Heat oil in a 12” wok or nonstick skillet over high; add cabbage, bok choy, and 2” scallions and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add noodles and chicken cook one minute more. Add reserved sauce cook 2 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

*If you’re using Shiritaki noodles: place noodles in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for about 65-70 seconds. The noodles will be ready when the scent of the fluid they’re  packaged in is gone. If it’s still there after the first minute, you can heat them for another 60 seconds, which should get the smell out. Use a knife to roughly chop until they’re loose and untangled. From here, they can be prepared in the same way as regular lo mein noodles for this recipe.

Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

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Hi , guys. I know, it’s  been a little over two weeks since my last post.

I’m still alive.

I’m still cooking.

I’m still a food blogger.

I wish I had this really exciting, interesting and engrossing story to share with all of you as to why I’ve been a little quiet lately.

But the truth is, I really don’t.

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I’ll be perfectly honest with you guys, I’ve felt sad lately. Nothing major; I have a pretty thick skin, most of the time I just brush it off and carry on with my life. This is just a noticeable sadness that’s still somewhat lingering.

A lot of the inspiration and enthusiasm I normally find in cooking and keeping up this blog has been depleted by the majority of news headlines that we’ve seen in the United States over the past few weeks and months. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to sit down and talk to you guys about food or try to tell a witty story, be my normally sarcastic/humorous self, and then talk to you guys about food when the news is playing in the background and I’m seeing and hearing about things that are happening in my country right now that I’m not okay with.

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Don’t flip out. This blog isn’t going to be my political soapbox. I know that’s not what you’re all here for.

However, issues of politics, equality and social justice are a huge part of how my identity has been shaped and it continues to affect me to this day. I see no reason to hide that. I’m an African American female; it’s a fact and I’m proud of it. My Black heritage was crucial in shaping my cooking identity. It guides the character of my food. And that’s a marvelous thing.  Unfortunately, there is a darker, unfortunate side to having a Black heritage in this country; a blessing and a burden, as the saying goes.

I’ll keep it short and brief: inequality still exists in America. Racism still exists in America. In fact, if you turn on the TV and watch a major news network, you should be able to see that it’s alive and well. And it’s pretty damn serious. People are dying; whether at the hands of corrupt police officers, self-appointed ‘neighborhood watches’, or white supremacist teenagers that shoot up a church prayer meeting, people are dying.

Sadly, this is nothing new, not so far as I’m concerned. It’s apart of the reality that I’ve long had to adapt myself to as a Black person in this country. Most of the time, in spite of the madness that I see or hear happening on the news, I can still cook, take photos and write up a blog post for all of you that’s completely ‘normal’ and funny and carry on. It’s what most of us do.

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But sometimes…I can’t. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Depressing. Gut-wrenching.

So much so that there have been far too many times over the past few weeks when I literally couldn’t cook, have a photo shoot or write a post. My mind, heart and will just were not in it. As a result, we ate take-out around here for several days. Probably more than we should have.

Sometimes I just can’t pretend that things with my country are okay, because this is a “food blog” and I need to separate that from my daily reality. Things aren’t okay. They’re not.

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I’m not interested in getting into debates or even discussions about the whys and hows all of this chaos is happening. I’m just having an honest moment of raw honesty with you guys. If you were curious as to why I haven’t been around lately, there it is.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done. Hopefully my little spiel was cool with you. (And if it’s not, or you tend to disagree with any of what I just said, I reaaaaaally can’t say I’m too offended or bothered. It’s my blog. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. My feelings won’t be hurt. Promise.)

Fortunately, I’ve been working my way back into the kitchen and giving my blogging mojo more and more pushups every  day to get myself back into Blogging shape so to speak. I think this recipe is a good start.

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So about this chicken: it looks great, right? Guess what?

It’s probably one of the easiest dishes you could ever make. You literally just take some chicken breasts, throw them in an overnight marinade, then bake/broil them the next day. Steam some broccoli, make some brown Minute Rice.

BAM.

You have a delicious dinner.

Like most Asian-inspired dishes, my favorite part of this dish is the sauce on the chicken; the thick, syrupy, sticky sauce that I always drizzle extra spoonfuls of on top of my rice.

Badda bing, badda boom.

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Asian Marinated Baked Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Chow.com

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely minced ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

Directions

Place everything except the chicken in a 13-by-9-inch broiler-proof baking dish and whisk to combine.

Lay the chicken in a single layer in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinate at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours, turning the chicken at least once during the marinating time.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 475°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Bake until the chicken is starting to turn a dark brown color, about 40 minutes.

Set the oven to broil and broil until the chicken skin is crisped, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve with the sauce on the side.

Thai Marinated Chicken Skewers

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So I know I’ve mentioned before in my Shepherd’s Pie post that I would never, ever, ever EVER think about going to Culinary School or setting out to be some kind of professional chef in a restaurant. This is definitely still the case. I haven’t changed my mind. It’s not gonna happen.

Having said that, I am willing to say that I wouldn’t completely rule out having some kind of career role that has to do with food. In fact, I think I can visualize the perfect culinary career for me.

If there are any people reading this that work in the food industry and are looking to hire someone to do these duties, feel free to look over my conditions and shout me a holler if it sounds like a good fit.

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My ideal work space is a high rise studio loft in NYC with tall windows and high ceilings- this’ll give me plenty of ventilation and natural light.

I’m gonna need a Kenmore fully furnished kitchen with the latest appliances- and I mean the WORKS; two to three double wall ovens with advanced temperature control, one convection oven, both a flat top and standard grill, two French door refrigerators, a chest freezer, 3 Kenmore Elite dishwashers (because I hate washing dishes), 2 standing mixers, 2 food processors, a hand blender, 2 slow cookers, one deep fryer, and one panini press.

I need the pantry that comes on Master Chef or Iron Chef America- just to make sure I’ve got the ‘essentials’.

While they’re at it, Kenmore could also go ahead and furnish the cookware and dishes too- (just call it for promotional purposes).

And counter space. Lots and lots of counter space. If you could see what I’m working with in our apartment right now, you would definitely understand the desperation behind that request.

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I know, I know. All of that sounds really demanding. But it really wouldn’t go to waste, I swear. See, in my dream culinary job, I would go into work in this space every single day putting every single one of these tools to good use in simply recipe writing, testing and perfecting.

You’re scared of baking, and you need someone to bake a cake for your kid’s birthday? Tell me what they like, and I’ll make it for you.

You want someone to give a review of a cookbook? Send it over to me and I will make every single recipe and give my rating.

Are you a really bad cook and engaged to marry someone who’s used to good homemade eating? We’ll go over some of their favorite foods and I’ll teach you how to make them so that you guys don’t have to starve or order take out after you say ‘I do’.

I could also envision a community service aspect of that job where I would link up with the local homeless shelters or churches and organize a weekly night  where I can serve all the food I spent my ‘workday’ making to a number of people down on their luck who are in need of a good home cooked meal.

So yeah, that’s my dream job: a life where all I do is is cook simple, comfort food all day long, then give the food away to other people. And get paid to do it. That would be the life.

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Hey, it’s another chicken kabobs recipe. And I STILL chose not to make it on the grill like I was ‘supposed’ to. How about them apples.

As yummy as the Sambal Chicken Skewers I made a little while ago were, my family said that they thought these tasted even better. I think it’s the spices in the marinade that does it: I’m just a huge fan of curry powder and all of it’s subtle sweetness with just enough bite to pack a punch. In fact, I love it so much that I don’t even care that I have to scrub and scrub my counter tops super hard to get those dark yellow stains out when I accidentally spill some. And that’s saying something.

Don’t skip on making this peanut sauce. It’s just too good to miss out on. Plus, what else are you going to use to drizzle over the chicken and rice you’re going to eat this with? Nothing, that’s what. You can’t make Thai chicken without a peanut sauce. That’s just not the way the world works.

Whoa, I just remembered it was Fiesta Friday #41. Good thing I’ve got something to bring and share with all of you, huh? Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting, and especially to Nancy @Feasting With Friends and  Loretta @Safari of the Mind for co-hosting. See you at the party!

 

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Thai Marinated Chicken Skewers


Recipe Adapted from Cooking Channel

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1- inch cubes
  • 24 wooden skewers, soaked overnight in water

For the Marinade

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Peanut Coconut Sauce

  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste

Directions

1. Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a separate bowl.

2. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage the meat with your hands for 1 minute to coat the cubes well.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper on 2 half sheet pans and place a baking rack on top of each. Spray racks with non-stick cooking spray.

5. Thread 4-5 pieces of chicken one each skewer, and arrange on top of baking racks. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until chicken reaches inner temperature of  165 degrees.

6. While chicken is baking, prepare peanut sauce: Combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, and red curry paste in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. When chicken is done, brush finished sauce over chicken cubes, and serve.

Yangzhou Fried Rice

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So, I have this soft spot.

It’s pretty frequent that whenever I’m in a shopping center or a private small business or restaurant and I see that the workers/owners aren’t getting much business, I feel really bad and sympathetic towards them. Yes, even if they’re those people that set up the stands in the mall and try to accost you while you’re walking just to test/buy their product. I know that the retail/food industry business is cutthroat and very competitive. I know that it’s not my fault if they have slow business. I know that I’m not obligated to buy anything- and to be honest, I usually don’t. But it doesn’t keep me from empathizing with them either. They have to make a living like everyone else, and their ability to do so or not depends on whether or not they can convince complete strangers to open their wallets. It’s a real sticky, precarious situation when you think about it.

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Why am I even talking about this? Well, when I was putting together this dish and this post, it made me think of this Asian restaurant that used to be in the food court of the local mall when I was still in grade school, years ago. I won’t say the name of the place, but it was independently owned by this couple that looked like they were in their mid-to upper 50’s. Every time I went to the mall, it just never seemed like anyone was buying anything from this place. The man and his wife would come in and out of the kitchen in the back, filling and emptying the dishes they had available, all the while looking at the passing shoppers as if wishing just a few of them to stop and buy something- anything- from their restaurant. If I can be completely honest, I’ll just go ahead and admit that there was a good reason that this place didn’t get much business. All of the ‘standard fare’ that you’d see in an American Chinese restaurant was on their menu, but the sad reality was that it wasn’t really well seasoned. Like, at all. Their recipes needed serious work.

I can still remember how sorry I felt for them, even as a little girl. And I wished I could’ve been able to tell that I really felt like they would’ve gotten more business if they changed up how they made their fried rice.

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It’s just my personal opinion, but I do think that a good Chinese restaurant starts with how they make their fried rice. In my experience, if they make excellent fried rice, then chances are the rest of the menu is pretty spot on too. Because let me just say up front one thing that I’ve learned: all fried rice is NOT created equal. I’ve had some really good fried rice over the years, and then I’ve had some that was frankly, pretty terrible. It wasn’t until I decided to make some for myself that I realized how easy it is for fried rice to go wrong. And to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of Chinese restaurants I’ve been to that make fried rice that taste even better than this recipe. But nobody’s perfect, and I do have to say that I’m pleased with how it came out for my first time….er, maybe my second. Technically.

Yangzhou Fried Rice4

See, technically my first attempt didn’t turn out so well. I maaaaaaay have ruined the first batch of Jasmine rice that I made. The rice is supposed to be one day old, so I made the Jasmine rice the night before I wanted to make the fried rice. It was really late at night and I was in a hurry to get to bed, so long story short, I don’t think I let it cook long enough. There was too much moisture still in the rice by the next day so the grains stuck together. Have you ever tried to ‘stir-fry’ gummy rice? It doesn’t work very well. And turns out, it tastes pretty bad too.

As rotten luck would have it, that was all the fresh Jasmine rice I had. All that was left in my pantry was Minute rice that you steam in water in the microwave. So I was forced to call in the cavalry on this one, folks. It’s still rice, it just didn’t need that long to cook. You won’t hold it against me, will you? I mean, it turned out into a pretty yummy dish. And now, you guys know that this dish can me made with Minute Rice and still turn out pretty awesome. It’s all apart of Cooking is My Sport Quality Control, I swear.

I’ll be bringing this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #39, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @Birgerbird, See you there!

 

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Yangzhou Fried Rice

Recipe Courtesy of Ching-He Hunag

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 ounces cooked Chinese pork (char siu) or ham, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups cooked jasmine rice, a day old
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal, for garnish

Directions

1. For the fried rice: Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Add the eggs and scramble, then set aside on a plate.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry for less than 1 minute. Then add the carrots and stir-fry for 1 minute more.

3. Add the pork, and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the peas and cooked rice and toss together. Add the cooked egg back into the wok.

4. Season the mixture with the light soy sauce, salt and pepper. At the very end add the sesame oil, if using. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.