Glazed Chicken with Chiles

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I don’t know much about Shaanxi cuisine other than it’s strongly flavored with its emphasis on onions, garlic, vinegar, and chiles. The resemblance to Sichuan cuisine drew me to this old recipe adapted from my tattered copy of Martin Yan’s China, originally named “glazed Xian chicken.” The chicken is stir-fried and coated with a savory sauce and the whole thing comes together in about half an hour. I can’t attest to its authenticity, but I can attest to its deliciousness.

Xian-style chicken

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons rice wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 small dried red chiles
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced diagonally
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/3 cup toasted walnut halves

1. Cut chicken into 3/4 inch pieces. Place in a bowl and add oyster sauce; stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

2. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add chiles and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add celery, zucchini, and onion; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Add walnuts and toss to coat.

Chicken Chow Fun

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I’m trying to cut down on pasta lately, but I’d like to think that this dish doesn’t count because it uses rice noodles as opposed to flour-based noodles. Rice doesn’t count, right? At least that’s what the Iranian in me says.

Carb delirium aside, this chicken chow fun dish is a much healthier (and delicious!) version of the restaurant classic. The meat is lean, the oil is minimal, and the vegetables are plentiful.

Chicken chow fun

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh or dried flat rice noodles, about 1/2 inch wide
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup roasted peanuts

1. If using dried rice noodles, pour enough warm water over them in a large bowl to cover completely. Let soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly. If using fresh rice noodles, run under warm water and separate strands.

2. Marinate the chicken: Stir 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, cornstarch, and pepper together in a bowl until the cornstarch is dissolved. Toss the chicken gently in the marinade until coated. Let stand for 20 minutes.

3. Prepare the seasonings: stir the remaining soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, and sugar together in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.

4. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add the noodles and stir-fry until the noodles are lightly browned along the edges, about 2 minutes. Place the noodles onto a plate and set aside.

5. Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add both onions and the ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Slide the noodles into the wok, scatter the bean sprouts over them, and pour in the seasonings. Toss until the mixture is heated through and the chicken is coated evenly with the seasonings, about 4 minutes.

6. Stir in the peanuts, place the contents of the wok onto a serving plate, and serve.

Gochujang Chicken Wings

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Gochujang is a a Korean fermented chili paste, which gives these chicken wings a uniquely spicy flavor that I can’t get enough of. It forms the backbone of the sauce, which is pretty simple to put together. Gochuchang (not to be confused with gochugaru, or Korean chili flakes) is both pungent and hot, sweet and salty all at the same time. It’s delicious. I’ve been experimenting with Korean flavors at home, and these spicy-sweet and sticky chicken wings have become one of my favorites.

Korean-style chicken wings

Ingredients:

6 pounds chicken wings, tips discarded and wings split
1/4 cup canola oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup gochujang (Korean chile paste)
2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chile powder)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Sesame seeds and sliced green onions, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss the wings with the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the wings, skin side up, to the prepared baking sheets and roast them for about 45 minutes, until they are cooked through and crisp.

2. Meanwhile, in another large bowl, whisk all of the remaining ingredients except the garnish with a pinch of freshly ground pepper.

3. Add the crispy wings to the chile sauce, toss to coat and garnish with the sesame seeds and scallions. Serve hot.

Joojeh Kabab (Iranian Grilled Saffron Chicken)

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Ask an Iranian what their favorite dish is and they’ll invariably reply with “kabab.” Joojeh (chicken) kabab, kabob koobideh (ground meat), kabab barg (steak filet) — we’ve got kabab down on lock. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually learned how to prepare joojeh kabab on my own. Najmieh Batmanglij’s New Food of Life cookbook and a couple phone calls to the parentals ensured me I was on the right track.

Don’t skimp on the onion in the marinade. Despite the volume, it’s not overpowering after the chicken is grilled. Also, you can try this with different kinds of poultry — in fact, those are cornish game hens pictured below. Lastly, try to get your hands on these flat steel skewers at a Middle Eastern grocer, as they make for much easier turning over a flame.

Joojeh kabab on the grill

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 onions, grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons Middle Eastern or Greek-style yogurt
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
4 pounds of skinless chicken pieces (preferably legs and thighs)
5 tomatoes, halved (preferably Roma tomatoes)
Accompaniments: lavash bread, fresh herbs, and cooked, buttered basmati rice

1. In a large bowl, combine the saffron water and the lime juice, olive oil, onions, garlic, yogurt, salt and pepper. Add the pieces of chicken and toss well with the marinade. Cover and marinate for at least 8 hours and up to 1 day in the refrigerator. Turn the chicken once during this period.

2. Start a bed of charcoal 30 minutes before you want to cook and let it burn until the coals glow evenly.

3. Skewer the tomatoes.

4. Spear chicken pieces onto different skewers. (Try to group chicken parts together as they each require different cooking times.)

5. Grill the chicken and tomatoes about 15 minutes, until done. Turn frequently.

6. To serve traditionally, spread a whole lavash bread on a serving platter. Remove the grilled chicken from skewers and arrange the pieces on the bread. Serve alongside the grilled tomatoes, fresh herbs, and warm basmati rice.

Gai pad gra pow

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I first tasted gai pad gra pow this past spring (late pass, I know), when my friend Natasha offered me a bite of her dish at a Thai restaurant in San Francisco. I was hooked, and I had to learn how to cook it.

Since then, this basil-inflected chicken stir-fry has become one of my favorites. Spicy and full of protein, it pairs perfectly with a cooling cucumber salad and steamed rice.

Gai pad gra pow

Ingredients:

5 cloves garlic, minced
3 bird’s eye (Thai) chiles, stemmed and minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup Thai basil leaves

1. Place a wok over high heat. Add the oil, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry for 30 seconds, or until the garlic is slightly golden. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked throughout, using a spatula to press the meat against the hot wok.

2. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the basil and stir-fry until wilted, about 1 minute, then turn out onto a serving dish. Serve warm.