My ‘Shanghai Chicken’ Challenge Entry

Shanghai Chicken 1

Well, here it is … my entry for the International ‘Shanghai Chicken’ project proposed by fellow blogger Stefan.

Stefan’s ‘rules’ specified that the dish could be an existing traditional recipe, or one created for this project, but it ‘has to include chicken, chilies of some sort, vegetable greens, and nuts’. My creation conforms to the basic theme but with just a tiny bit of a twist…

Basically, I aimed for a dish that somewhat resembled the one giving rise to the project… I also used cubed chicken but I substituted cashews for pine-nuts and incorporated the chili component into a sweetened tomato base. For the greens, I also deep-fried this particular component but – and this was the major flight of fancy – I looked to the sea for my green vegetable and used a dried seaweed popular in Japanese cuisine known as ‘Wakame’.

Read on if you would like to see a few more details and my verdict on the final product… 

Shanghai Chicken 2

For this project, I pre-made my sauce for convenience sake. It was intended to be somewhat spicy hot given the chili requirement but I wanted to reflect Shanghai, rather than Western Chinese cuisine, and I based it on a puree of fresh, ripe tomatoes (Shanghai is China’s chief center for tomato sauce production) and then gave it a sweet and sour bite with plain sugar and some Chinkiang Black Vinegar. For the chili heat, I used Korean Gochujang, Sichuan Chili Bean Paste, and some of my homemade Hunanese-style chopped salted chilies. I rounded the whole thing out with a splash of  Shaoxing Wine and thickened it with some cornstarch slurry.

Shanghai Chicken 3

For the chicken, I used boneless breast which I cut into cubes and then very briefly blanched in hot salted water in preparation for the final cooking. The cashew nuts would have been nice straight from package, quite probably, but I added a little extra layer of taste by coating them with sesame oil and toasting until browned.

Shanghai Chicken 4

Here is the Wakame seaweed I used. I experimented with deep-frying reconstituted ‘Kombu‘ seaweed, but I liked the results I got from using the pre-cut, dried Wakame as it looked very much like the deep-fried ‘greens’ used in the dish giving the inspiration for this one. I simply dropped it in hot oil for just a few seconds and then, while it was still hot, sprinkled it with a little sugar and salt.

And The Verdict….

Shanghai Chicken 5

Well, before anything, I have to confess that, for the last few days I have not been feeling terribly well and, though I wasn’t too sick to cook, I was not all that enthusiastic about eating and I didn’t even finish the small portion you see pictured above. In testimony to the tastiness if the final product, however, I will add the my wife not only ate the rest of the presentation plate, but finished off what I left in my bowl as well.

In truth though, I found this dish to be interesting but not anything I would rush to cook again. My wife wasn’t crazy about the mix of the seaweed with the chicken (although she ate it all) and, though I actually did like the flavor combination, I found the texture contrast just a bit too jarring. The sauce was tasty (if a bit too reminiscent of Americanized ‘Kung Pao’ dishes) and next time I would use a little less sugar and, if possible, try and avoid the rather garish fluorescent red that that I ended up with. I also think a slightly ‘drier’, less ‘saucier’ finish would have been more attractive.

Anyway, I still enjoyed the exercise and I am really looking forward to seeing what others will come up with…

 

20 thoughts on “My ‘Shanghai Chicken’ Challenge Entry”

  1. Interesting idea to use wakame, I would not have thought of that! I’m going through the submissions and they are even more different than I could have imagined. Very nice!

  2. Hey John, sorry you’ve been under the weather, I have a cold that won’t leave me alone has too made cooking less appealing in the last few days. Get better. Love your take on this dish, specially the tomatoes. Would have thought of that. Learned about Chinkiang vinegar too, which I had no idea even existed. I used rice vinegar on mine. thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Hello John, I hope you are feeling better soon. I also think it is difficult to put both Chinese and Japanese cooking cuisines together as they are both very different. However a very good challenge. Take are of yourself. BAM

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