Chicken with Sichuan Preserved Vegetable
Chicken with Sichuan Preserved Vegetable

Chicken with Sichuan Preserved Vegetable

This simple little dish is very easy to prepare, but it packs a pretty potent flavor wallop from the addition of the spicy and sour Sichuan Preserved Vegetable, known as Zhà Cài (榨菜). I have augmented the usual heat and tanginess of the pickle with a little chili paste and vinegar, and then rounded out the flavors with just a dash of sugar. Cashews add a nice flavor and textural contrast to both the chicken and vegetable.


The Basic Method

Soaking the Preserved Vegetable
Soaking the Preserved Vegetable

Zhà Cài is brine fermented pickle and will sometimes need to be soaked to remove some of the saltiness. How much soaking will be necessary will depend on the pickle you have purchased (or made yourself), and, in some cases, you may wish to use it as is.

Taste your pickle, and if the salt level is unacceptably high, soak it in cold water, changing the water several times, if necessary, and continue to taste test it until the saltiness is just right.

Marinating the chicken
Marinating the chicken

Marinate your diced chicken with rice wine, white pepper and a little sesame oil for flavor. Cornstarch will give the chicken a coating that will help keep it moist and tender inside when it is first fried alone, and then finished in a final stir-fry with the other ingredients.

Deep-Frying the chicken
Deep-Frying the chicken

Lightly deep-frying the chicken pieces at low temperature before finishing them in a second cooking step is a common practice in Chinese restaurant dishes. It helps keep the meat very soft and tender.

With chicken pieces like this, you just need to cook them long enough to turn white, with no pink spots remaining visible on the surface. Th meat will still be under-cooked in the center, but will end up fully cooked later on.

Finishing the dish
Finishing the dish

In this dish, the sauce is thickened by reduction. The ingredients for the sauce are added first, reduced until a syrupy texture is formed, then the main ingredients are added for the final cooking.


Your Recipe Card:

Chicken with Sichuan Preserved Vegetable

Chicken with Sichuan Preserved Vegetable is simple to put together, but packed with flavor due to the hot and sour Sichuan-style pickled mustard stem
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese, Sichuanese
Keyword: Cashews, Chicken, Chili Paste, Chinese Black Vinegar, Mustard Pickle
Author: John Thompson

Ingredients

  • 1 small chicken breast in half-inch dice;
  • 1 tbsp. Rice Wine;
  • 1 dash White Pepper;
  • 1 tsp. Cornstarch;
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil;
  • ½ cup Sichuan Preserved Vegetable in small dice;
  • ½ cup Cashews;
  • 1 tbsp. Chili Paste;
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar;
  • 2 tbsp. Rice Vinegar use White Vinegar for extra tang.

Instructions

  • Dice or slice your preserved vegetable, if purchased whole, then soak in cold water to reduce the saltiness as needed.
  • Mix the chicken with the rice wine and then stir in the cornstarch and pepper, and sesame oil. Allow this to marinate for at least twenty minutes.
  • Heat a half-cup of oil over medium heat and fry the chicken cubes in two or three batches until opaque and not-quite cooked through. Remove these to a bowl as they are done and then drain off all but a tablespoon or so of oil.
  • Turn up the heat to high, add the chili paste, sugar and vinegar to the oil and let it all bubble down to a syrupy texture.
  • Add the chicken, followed by the preserved vegetable, and then the cashews and stir-fry until the chicken is fully cooked everything is heated through.
  • Serve immediately.

2 Comments

  1. That looks amazing. You share the best Asian inspired recipes. Thank you

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!