Hot and Spicy Numbing Chicken

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If you don’t like spicy food, please keep scrolling. The warning is in the name of the dish here: it is hot and it is spicy and thanks to a generous sprinkling of Sichuan peppercorns, it is numbing. But in an oh-so-good way.

Adapted from a Fuchsia Dunlop recipe, this Sichuan-style appetizer is perfect for making ahead of time since you start with already cooked chicken and the final dish is served at room temperature. Make sure you use good quality chili oil here, preferably homemade. It makes all the difference.

Hot and spicy numbing chicken

Ingredients:

1 pound cooked chicken breast
2 green onions
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons chili oil with chili flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground roasted Sichuan pepper

1. Cut the chicken evenly into slices and set aside. Thinly slice the green onions diagonally, 1 1/2 inches long.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, soy sauce, chili oil, and sesame oil.

3. Place the green onions on a serving platter and then add the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the ground Sichuan pepper and drizzle with the sauce. Serve at room temperature.

Iranian Okra Stew (Khoresh-e Bamieh)

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For the uninitiated, khoresh is a general term for stews and curries in Iranian cuisine that are served alongside basmati rice, fresh sabzi (herbs), and torshi (pickled vegetables). From eggplant to fenugreek to split peas to pomegranates, there are countless varieties of khoresh and at gatherings you’ll see at least two types served alongside other dishes.

My favorite khoresh, though, is a less common one: khoresh-e bamieh. This okra stew hails from southern Iran and although both of my parents are from Tehran, my mom’s family grew up eating this. She introduced it to my dad when they were married, who counts it among his favorites too. And me? Well, I go crazy for this stuff. Luckily for me (and you), it’s easy to make. It’s not quite as good as my mom’s, but I’m getting there.

Like most khoreshs, it can be made vegetarian by simply omitting the meat. You can also substitute the chicken for leg of lamb that’s been cut into 2-inch cubes. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time and water accordingly.

Khoresh-e bamieh

Ingredients:

2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 pounds skinless chicken legs and thighs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tomato, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 pound fresh or frozen okra

1. In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, brown onion, garlic, and chicken in the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and turmeric. Add the tomato paste and tomato. Pour in 1 1/2 cups water, cover, and simmer over low heat for 1/2 hour until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally.

2. When the chicken is tender, add lime juice and okra. Simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes over low heat. Check to see if okra is tender. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve warm with chelo (Iranian-style rice).

Flowering Chives with Turkey and Black Beans

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I was missing Taiwan and the cornucopia of food I ate during my trip last year, so I made this spin on what’s colloquially known as “fly’s head,” but is really more like Chinese chives with minced pork and salted black beans. Except my version uses ground turkey instead of pork (I stay halalifying Chinese recipes on the regular).

Try to seek out the flowering chives jiu cai here, as opposed to the flat, leafy ones. These stalks are light and crisp and will make all the difference in the final dish, which is perfect alongside a simple bowl of steamed rice.

Flowering chives with turkey and black beans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
3/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 pounds flowering chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dried fermented black beans, rinsed and drained

1. Heat oil in a wok over high. Add turkey and stir-fry while breaking up the pieces, until almost cooked through but with some remaining pink spots, about 3 minutes. Add mirin and soy sauce and simmer, continuing to press down on the turkey to break into small pieces, until liquid is reduced by half and meat looks slightly glazed, about 8 minutes. Add flowering chives, garlic, chiles, sesame oil, and black beans. Cook, tossing, until chives are just tender and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve over rice.

Chicken Slivers with Flowering Chives

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This recipe is malleable to say the least. Originally a Sichuan recipe of pork with yellow chives, I’ve adapted it to make it less, uh, porky. But I also swapped out the chives. Chinese yellow chives have been grown under cover without exposure to sunlight, and were originally called for here. They’re similar to the more commonly found Chinese chives, or jiu cai, but more delicate in flavor. There are also flowering chives, which are just as delicious and crunchier.

I love them all. But I can’t always find yellow chives or flowering chives, so feel free to use them interchangeably here. Just don’t use regular ol’ supermarket chives. It’s just not the same.

Slivered chicken with garlic chives

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
3/4 pound flowering chives (or yellow chives or garlic chives), washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch or potato flour
1 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon black Chinese vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock

1. Slice the chicken into fine strips, about 2 inches long. Place them in a bowl, add the salt, rice wine, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons water, and mix. Let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Cut the chives into 2-inch lengths. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, and chicken stock in a bowl and set aside.

3. Add oil to a wok over high heat. Add the chicken slivers and stir-fry to separate them, about 2 minutes until the meat is just about cooked, then add the chives. Continue to stir-fry until the chives are tender, then add the sauce to the wok. Cook for a minute longer, until the sauce has thickened, then turn onto a serving platter.

Chicken Soup with Sticky Rice

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‘Tis the season for rainy days, for heavy coats, for wanting nothing more than to curl up with a bowl of warm soup and binge-watch Game of Thrones. Winter is coming, y’all.

My favorite thing about this time of year is cold-weather cooking; namely, soups! Especially this one: an easy-to-make but complex-tasting chicken soup redolent with Vietnamese flavors of fish sauce, cilantro, and chiles. Make sure you add enough chicken broth: as the soup cools and settles, the sticky rice will thicken the soup.

Vietnamese sticky rice and chicken soup

Ingredients:

3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 5-inch piece dried kombu
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, crushed
4 star anise pods
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
3 cloves
6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup glutinous (sticky) rice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion

1. Bring chicken, kombu, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, stock, and 2 cups water to a simmer in a large pot over moderate heat. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until chicken is tender. Transfer chicken to a plate.

2. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into another pot; discard solids. Return broth to large pot and add rice, fish sauce, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until rice is very tender, about minutes. Shred chicken and return to pot; season soup with more fish sauce if needed.

3. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with green onions, jalapeno, cilantro, and white onion.