Tag: Chicken

Notable Nosh: Japanese General Tso’s Chicken

Japanese General Tso

General Tso’s Chicken (or some spelling variant thereof) has become so ubiquitous that most people who have dined in a Chinese restaurant have had it at one time or another. Surprisingly, though, even though the dish has been popular for a decade or so, it was only last year that I tried it for the first time. There are many different variations on the basic theme, of course, and one can almost so that no two representations are more than passingly similar. After my first try, I decided to order it in various locations and see if I could get a handle on the range of different preparations …

My first experience was in a fairly westernized Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Just recently though, I was down in Ottawa and I came across an appetizer version in a Japanese restaurant. It was an ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ Sushi place and it had a small section of ‘Chinese Food’ listed on its extensive menu.

Anyway, the result you see here was … well, interesting. Even in my limited experience with this dish, I can pretty much guess that experienced aficionados would probably say that, whatever this dish is, it is NOT General Tso’s chicken. There are no vegetables in the mix (although, to be fair, this was meant as an appetizer so ‘filler’ was not needed), but the sauce that covered the chicken was completely off base. The chicken itself was actually pretty good… it was only dusted with flour rather than being battered (which is a plus to mind), and it was fried to the point of being nicely crispy on the outside. As for the sauce?

Well, as far as I have been able to tell, General Tso’s Chicken is supposed to have a bit of a fiery bite to it. It is not a ‘hot’ dish, as such, but it should have a little chili somewhere in the mix to give it a little spark. Here, though, the spicy heat quotient was zero (zip, zilch, nada, nyet, niente… etc.). The actual result was much more like the sort of sweet and sour sauce poured over chicken balls in the lower end ‘Chinese’ restaurants. It was, to my mind, quite a bit like ketchup diluted with a little vinegar, and with extra sugar added. Not horribly bad, at all… just not right. I rather think the good General might be rolling over in his grave at the thought of this production in his name…

Dim Sum: Chicken Feet 鳳爪

Chicken Feet 1

Chicken’s feet are a popular snack in many parts of Asia and are a regular item on the menu at dim sum restaurants where they are often not identified as ‘chicken feet’ but rather appear, in writing’ as 鳳爪 (fèng zhǎo), which translates to the slightly more poetic ‘Phoenix Talons’. I first tried them in Toronto about 30 years ago (as part of my first dim sum experience, as it happened) and, as with many westerners, the idea of actually eating the feet seemed a little strange but, after a while, they don’t relay seem that much different from eating wings (although the texture is quite different).

Feet are invariably served in steamer baskets in dim sum restaurants (and this is how they keep them hot), but they are first deep fried which not only gives them some color but also causes them to puff up slightly. Afterwards they are stewed in a simmering sauce that often contains bean paste, sugar, and, quite often whole black beans (though other ingredients and flavourings can be used as well).

The ones in the main picture above, which I recently had in Vancouver)  appeared on the menu as 豆豉鳳爪 (dòu chǐfèng zhǎo), meaning that they are prepared with Chinese Salted Black Bean. Actually, very few beans were apparent (you can just make out a couple), and the usual black bean flavor wasn’t very apparent. The ones in the inset (which I believe I had in Ottawa), were also made using black bean, although the paste rather than whole beans) and they were also really garlicky, as well as being very plump and tender.

There is almost no meat in chickens feet (in contrast to the wing), and it is the skin that gives them the very gelatinous quality that is much loved by the Chinese and favored by me as well. Another factor that distinguishes the feet from the wing is the sheer number of tiny bones. The general approach is to suck larger pieces into your mouth and then work the plump, unctuous skin away from the little bones and then spit these out. In a Chinese restaurant, you will often see people doing this right onto the tablecloth … it’s all part of the experience J

Chrysanthemum Chicken

chrysanthemum-chicken-01

One of my oldest cookery books, ‘The Great Book of Chinese Cooking’ contains a recipe for something it calls ‘Chrysanthemum Chicken’; so named, apparently, because the appearance is supposed (with some poetic license, one presumes), to resemble the bloom of that particular flower. Now, I have to say that, as far as I am concerned, any such resemblance in that regard is a faint illusion at best. Moreover, every other recipe for Chrysanthemum Chicken I have ever come across derives its name from the fact the Chrysanthemum petals, or greens, are used as an ingredient, and not because of any particular floral quality in the presentation. Anyway… today’s dish is inspired by that old recipe and, though I have departed from the flavorings a little, my result looks quite a bit like the picture of the original…  Continue reading “Chrysanthemum Chicken”

Kung Pao Dragon & Phoenix

kung-pao-dragon-phoenix-1

As I have mentioned before, any dish with ‘Dragon and Phoenix’ in the title generally means that it is made with shrimp and chicken. I put together this particular combination in order to show you the use of my homemade Simple Chili Oil as a dish ingredient rather than as a condiment and I have called it a ‘Kung Pao’ dish even though I stray from the traditional cookery methods a little. In the proper Sichuanese versions of Kung Pao cookery, chilies are fried in very hot until almost black, and the result is a characteristic scorched chili flavor with which the other ingredients are infused… my homemade oil definitely has that quality Continue reading “Kung Pao Dragon & Phoenix”

Chicken with Peppers and Almonds

Chicken with Peppers 1

 

This dish is a bit like the ‘Almond Soo Guy’ or ‘Almond Guy Ding’ you often used to see on Westernized Chines restaurant menus back when ‘Chop Suey’ also used to be regularly featured. I never had either that I recall but ‘Soo Guy’ and ‘Guy Ding’ are phonetic representations of the Cantonese for ‘cooked chicken’ and ‘chicken cubes’ so today’s dish fits the bill either way. It’s quite sweet, with no other particularly exotic flavors, so it is a generically ‘Chinese Restaurant’ production if not especially Chinese beyond the appearance. It is, however, very easy to male… Continue reading “Chicken with Peppers and Almonds”

Baked Celery Chicken

Baked Celery Chicken 1

Way back last summer, I found myself the only guest at the Tujormovik Hotel in Igloolik and, on the weekend, I ended up cooking for myself. I had some chicken pieces but, lacking a wire rack to bake them on, I improvised using celery stalks I found in the fridge. I only meant to use the celery to keep the pieces from sticking to the pan but, as it happened, the result of the stalks baking in the chicken juices was delicious and I made a note to experiment with the idea in the future.

Yesterday, I finally got around to playing around with the basic theme again, this time using chicken drumettes, which are the end part of the wing that looks like a little leg. Instead of using whole celery stalks, I cut the celery into short batons and spread them over the bottom of a baking dish. I was aiming for a vaguely Asian end result here and to keep the celery moist an add a little flavor, I sprinkled these with a tablespoon or two of dry sherry (having no rice wine at the time). Next, I tossed the drumettes with a little salt, garlic puree and Hoisin Sauce, and arranged them in a circle on top of the celery and sprinkled everything with just a little finely diced red pepper. This last step was more for appearance than anything else but you could easily substitute fresh red chili for an additional flavor boost.

Anyway, I baked the dish in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes and the result was delicious. I ate every piece of chicken and every bit of celery all by myself with just a little bread to mop up the juice. Once again, the celery baked in chicken juices really turned out nicely. I think a little more could be done to make the final dish a little more visually appealing, maybe, but the idea is worth working with and you could easily adapt the general idea with a whole host of other flavorings…

Chicken and Grapefruit Salad

Chicken and Grapefruit Salad 1

I came across the idea for this dish in a Chinese cookery book featuring home-style meals. That version used plain steamed chicken and contained nothing else beyond the grapefruit other than some sliced green pepper, all of which dressed in grapefruit juice with a little sugar added. I have jazzed up the basic idea by using grilled chicken, replacing the bell pepper with celery, and adding some of the Chinese Black Fungus commonly known as ‘Tree-Ear or ‘Cloud-Ear’, for color and texture.

By the way, I am using some ready prepared sections of pink grape-fruit I bought at my supermarket. This saves having to peel the fruit and remove the membranes from each piece. The variety I bought also had some sugar added to the juice. You can use fresh grapefruit if you like but make sure to save at least 3 or 4 tablespoons of the juice as you section it. You will likely want to add a little sugar to taste, as well…  Continue reading “Chicken and Grapefruit Salad”

Chicken with Preserved Vegetable

Chicken and Preserved Vegetable 1

This recipe is built around the Sichuan Preserved Vegetable I featured in a foodstuff post recently. I am going to be cooking it with diced chicken breast and cashews in a hot, sweet, and sour sauce using chili, sugar and vinegar. This particular combination is pretty much ‘ad hoc’ for today’s dish but it is very much in the general tradition of Sichuan cookery…  Continue reading “Chicken with Preserved Vegetable”