Chinese food is bold, bright and aromatic. A few ingredients common to most of the Chinese dishes are ginger, garlic, vinegar, soya sauce, Spring onion, and celery, but the sauces like oyster sauce, fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce are unique and each one lends its own flavour and personality to the dish it is added to. There are different styles of cooking Chinese food, Cantonese food is well known for its sweet and spicy taste and flavor, Sichuan food – on the other hand is hot and spicy. Hunan cuisine is usually rich in oil and intense whereas Mandarin cuisine is relatively mild and beautifully balanced – a little bit of sweet, spice and everything nice.
An old Chinese proverb- “To the ruler, people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven.”
This chicken dish is one of my favourites and when I cook Chinese at home, I make this oyster sauce along with fish or prawns if chicken is not available. Chicken is the most versatile and convenient item of food in Chinese cooking and it takes the center place on the table for most festive occasions.
For the marinade:
- Chicken -1/2 kg
- Soya sauce- 1 tsp
- Flour- 1/2 cup
For the dish
- Dry red chillies- 4-5
- Cashewnuts -1/4 cup
- Ginger minced- 1 tbsp
- Garlic minced-1 tbsp
- Celery minced- 1 stalk
- Spring onion- 2 minced (with stalk)
For the sauce:
- Oyster sauce – 1 tbsp
- Soya sauce-1 tsp
- Tomato sauce- 1 tbsp
- White vinegar- 1 tsp
- Water-1 cup or stock
- Cornflour – 1 tbsp dissolved in 2 tbsp of water.
- Salt, pepper, aginimotto and sugar – a pinch each
- Marinate chicken in ingredients and keep aside for 1/2 an hour.
- Shallow fry and keep aside.
- In the remaining oil, add broken red chillies and halved cashewnuts.
- Stir fry all the minced ingredients.
- Add chicken and stir fry.
- Add all the sauces, vinegar and water. Bring to boil.
- Add cornflour dissolved in water and stir till sauce thickens.
- Season with a pinch of salt, sugar, pepper and aginimotto.
- Serve hot, garnished with spring onions.
- Chicken and pork can be interchanged but cooking has to be done on a high flame to seal the juices in.
- Chinese food tastes best when eaten fresh as on cooling the dish tends to get greasy.
- When using dry red chillies, remove seeds and then use.
- The colour of the dish will depend on how much you fry the marinated chicken.
- If you want the dish dry, add only the sauces, season with salt, pepper, aginimotto, sugar and serve hot.
- In the case of fish and prawns – add 1tbsp of ginger juice to the marinade and follow the recipe.
- For the vegetarians, you could substitute chicken with button mushrooms, cauliflower and baby corn.
- You could substitute 1/2 cup of flour instead of egg and follow the recipe, in this case a little water (1/4 -1/2 cup) would have to be added to make a thick marinade. Follow the recipe stated above.
- Serves 4.
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