Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

The chicken One challenge of Chinese cooking is that you need Chinese ingredients – which can be hard to find, depending on where you live. I was super over-stimulated in there – rows and rows of bright and unfamiliar ingredients, being pushed on all sides by tiny old Chinese ladies, the smell of fish in the air, occasional announcements in Chinese that seemed to cause quite a stir among the other shoppers… it was an experience. But I got what I needed – dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang vinegar, potato starch, and Chinese broccoli.

Book Club: Every Grain of Rice // Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

Book Club: Every Grain of Rice // Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

Book Club: Every Grain of Rice // Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

Book Club: Every Grain of Rice // Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

The chicken in particular was delicious – sweet, salty, and spicy, with a thick tangy sauce, it was as good as any Chinese takeout I’ve had. And since I have massive bottles of soy sauce, wine, and vinegar leftover, I’m excited to start trying some of the other recipes – like Stir-Fried Beef with Black Bean and Chili, General Tso’s Chicken, and Buckwheat Noodles with Red-Braised Beef. The real test of any of these dishes.

The bottom line: Every Grain of Rice is a solid cookbook that serves as a great introduction to simple Chinese cooking. Based on my limited knowledge of Chinese cuisine, the recipes seem authentic, and the few that I’ve tried have been delicious. Cooking from the book will require an investment in a few special ingredients, but once you have the basics, you’ll be able to cook most of the recipes in the book. From a design standpoint, Every Grain of Rice is clean and well organized, with plenty of beautiful full-page photographs. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes eating Chinese food, or who is interested in learning a new cuisine.

Book Club: Every Grain of Rice // Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, with or without skin (11–12 oz/300–350g in total)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • An equivalent amount of ginger
  • 5 spring onions, white parts only
  • A handful of mild dried chillies (about 10)
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
  • 3 oz (75g) roasted peanuts

For the marinade:

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing wine
  • 11/2 tsp potato flour

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp potato flour
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chicken stock or water
  1. Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1/2 in (11/2cm) strips, then cut these into small cubes. Place in a small bowl. Add the marinade ingredients together with 1 tbsp water, mix well and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger and chop the spring onions into chunks as long as their diameter (to match the chicken cubes). Snip the chillies in half or into sections. Discard their seeds as far as possible. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Heat a seasoned wok [or frying pan] over a high flame. Add the oil with the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry briefly until the chillies are darkening but not burned (remove the wok from the heat if necessary to prevent overheating). Quickly add the chicken and stir-fry over a high flame, stirring constantly. As soon as the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and continue to stir-fry until they are fragrant and the meat just cooked through (test one of the larger pieces to make sure).
  4. Give the sauce a stir and add it to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and shiny, add the peanuts, stir them in and serve.

Book Club: Every Grain of Rice // Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts

Chinese Broccoli in Ginger Sauce

  • 3/4 lb (350g) Chinese broccoli
  • Salt
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp potato flour mixed with 1 tbsp cold water (optional)
  1. Bring a large panful of water to a boil (a generous 21/2 quarts/21/2 liters will do). Wash and trim the Chinese broccoli. If the lower parts of the stems are thick and fibrous, peel away their outer skin with a potato peeler.
  2. When the water is boiling, add 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp oil, then the Chinese broccoli. Blanch it for a minute or two to “break its rawness.” The stems should be just tender, but still crisp. If you are stir-frying them immediately, simply drain the broccoli stems and shake dry in a colander; if you want to serve them later, refresh the stems under a cold tap to arrest cooking before draining well.
  3. When you wish to serve the broccoli, add the remaining oil to a seasoned wok over a high flame, swirl it around, then add the ginger and sizzle briefly until you can smell its fragrance. Splash in the Shaoxing wine and add the sugar. Add the broccoli and stir-fry, adding salt to taste, until it is piping hot. (If you are using broccoli blanched earlier, then cooled, you will need to pour 2–3 tbsp water or stock into the wok and cover it, so the stems reheat thoroughly.)
  4. Remove the stems from the wok and lay them neatly on a serving dish. If you wish to thicken the juices, give the potato flour mixture a stir and add just enough, in stages, to thicken the sauce to a clingy consistency; then pour the sauce over the broccoli and serve. If you do not wish to thicken the juices, simply pour them and the ginger over the broccoli.

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