Suya (West African Chicken Kababs)

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Suya, where have you been all my life? Suya is a grilled and skewered meat dish in many parts of West Africa, including Nigeria. These chicken suya are abundantly flecked with crushed peanuts and spices, adding a wonderful texture and layer of heat.

I often cook suya on a cast iron grill but an outdoor charcoal grill will of course be more flavorful. They make a delicious appetizer served alone, or you can serve them with rice for a filling entree.

Suya (West African chicken kebabs)

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted peanuts
1 inch peeled ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup canola oil
salt and pepper
20 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

1. In a food processor, pulse the peanuts until finely chopped. Add the ginger, garlic, bouillon cube, paprika, onion powder and cayenne and pulse until a coarse and crumbly mixture forms. Spread the peanut mixture on a large plate.

2. Rub the chicken 
with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Thread the chicken onto the skewers and press into the peanut mixture to coat both sides. Arrange the skewers 
on a plate. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. In a cast iron grill pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Cook the chicken in batches over moderate heat, turning carefully, until deep golden and the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken. Serve warm.

Chicken and Cashew Dumplings

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Nuts? In a dumpling? With meat? It may sound unconventional, but this combination works wonderfully. I’m always on the hunt for new types of dumplings and this one adds a wonderful crunch and depth of flavor to the chicken filling. Cooked in the style of gyoza, their dumpling skins become crispy and wonderfully chewy as they cook.

These are a little time consuming to make, but you can make a batch ahead of time and freeze them for later, for when you’re ready to cook them. These hearty dumplings go perfectly with a simple dipping sauce of vinegar, ginger, and soy sauce.

Chicken and cashew dumplings

Ingredients:

3/4 pound ground chicken
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped salted cashews
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 egg, lighly whisked
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 package round dumpling wrappers
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. In a bowl, cover the mushrooms with hot water and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and finely chop.

2. In another bowl, combine the chicken with the mushrooms, water chestnuts, green onions, cashews, ginger, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice wine, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, egg, and cornstarch. Mix well.

3. Lay a dumpling wrapper flat. Using your finger, brush the outer edge with water. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling in the center. Fold the wrapper over the filling to form a half-moon and fold pleats, pressing with your fingers to adhere until you have a sealed and pleated half-moon. Repeat with the rest of the wrappers and filling.

4. Pour vegetable oil into a large nonstick skillet to cover the bottom. Arrange the dumplings in the skillet with the non-pleated side down. Cook over medium heat until golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes.

5. Pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the dumplings, about 1/3 cup. Cover and cook until most of the water is absorbed and the filling is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until all of the water has evaporated and the dumplings are crispy on the bottom, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving plate and serve warm.

Dry Fried Glass Noodles with Chiles

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I’ve been on a spicy kick lately. Does it have chiles? Copious amounts of chiles? Yes? Will my tongue tingle and will my mouth go numb? Sign me up then.

This Sichuan-influenced dish of glass noodles quickly dry-fried with spices and ground meat is fiery thanks to a healthy dose of chili bean paste and dried chiles. It’s a flexible recipe, so feel free to leave out the meat for a vegetarian version or add vegetables galore to up the health factor. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that this dish is spicy. Pass the water, please.

Dry fried glass noodles

Ingredients:

6 ounces dried bean thread noodles
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 ounces ground turkey or chicken
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon chili bean paste (tobanjan)
5 dried red chiles
1 green onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Pour enough warm water over the noodles in a large bowl to cover completely. Soak until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain and cut the noodles in half.

2. Combine the rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons of the soy sauce, and cornstarch in a bowl and mix well. Add the meat and stir to coat evenly. Let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add the oil, then add the garlic, ginger, chili bean paste, and dried chiles and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the meat and stir-fry until it is lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining teaspoon of soy sauce, noodles and cook, stir-frying until well-mixed, about 3 minutes. Stir in the green onion and sesame oil. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Sichuan Boiled Dumplings in Chili Oil

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“Nothing worth having comes easy,” a wise person once said. I’m pretty sure they were talking about these dumplings.

Spicy, garlicy, and out-of-this-world delicious, these meat-filled dumplings are one of my favorite things to cook and eat. They’re also time consuming to make, but I promise you they’ll be worth it when you find yourself wondering if it’s okay to lick your plate. (Yes. Yes, it is.)

Sichuan boiled dumplings in chili oil

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey or chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 dried shiitake mushroom, soaked until softened, minced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
30 round dumpling wrappers
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons hot bean paste
1 tablespoon hot chile oil

1. For the filling, combine the turkey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1/3 of the green onion, mushroom, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, and 1/3 cup water in a bowl. Mix well and freeze for half an hour to firm the mixture to make it easier to handle.

2. Dissolve the cornstarch in 3 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl to make a thin paste. Moisten the edges of a dumpling wrapper by dipping your finger into the paste and running it over the edge of the wrapper. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Bring the edges of the wrapper up to meet at the top of the filling and pinch them closed, squeezing the dough. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.

3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the dumplings and cook until the filling is cooked through and the dumplings are floating on top of the water, about 4 minutes.

4. While the dumplings are cooking, make the sauce: heat a wok over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the remaining green onions, garlic, and black pepper. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar, vinegar, hot bean paste, remaining tablespoon soy sauce, remaining teaspoon sesame oil, and hot chili oil. Mix well.

5. Drain the dumplings in a colander. Place the dumplings in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over. Serve warm.

Kung Pao Chicken

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Kung Pao chicken originated in China’s Sichuan province, and the original version bears little resemblance to the saucy, sugary version we find in so many Americanized Chinese restaurants. Like most families in the U.S., we grew up with the Chinese American classics of the 1980s and 1990s, but I never liked green bell peppers — an ubiquitous ingredient in the Americanized version of Kung Pao chicken. When I discovered that the original version was sans bell pepper and with a healthy dose of Sichuan peppercorns, I was hooked.

There is a time and place for Americanized Chinese cuisine. After all, it’s comfort food for so many. But when it comes to Kung Pao chicken, this is the spicy, flavorful, and peanut-flecked version that I crave.

Kung pao chicken

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in to 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 small dried red chiles
2 1/2 inch piece ginger, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns

1. Combine chicken with cornstarch and wine in a bowl. Cover, place in refrigerator, and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
2. Place 2 tablespoons oil and chiles in a wok and turn heat to low. Cook for about 3 minutes or until chiles begin to darken. Using a slotted spoon, remove chiles and drain on kitchen paper.
3. Leaving chili-infused oil in wok, turn heat up to high and stir-fry the chicken for about 6 minutes. Add ginger and reserved chiles and stir fry for 1 minute.
4. Add sugar and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add peanuts, soy sauce, and vinegar and stir fry for 1 minute. Add Sichuan pepper and remove from heat. Serve warm.