Ah both my off-spring are keeping the Chinese cooking going on the other side of the world while their Mammy is out of action in the kitchen and both have chosen chicken for dinner.

Claire prepared Fuschia Dunlop’s Everyday Stir-fried Chicken from Every Grain of Rice served with stir-fried broccoli while, a hemisphere and 2 seasons away, Shane and Shan prepared a winter ginger chicken stew.

Over the last few days I found I was missing the spice of Chinese food very much. The Chinese will often say that after a few days of Western cooking they feel their mood flagging and they begin to feel sad. One restaurant manager confessed to Fuschia Dunlop “It’s like an opium addiction”. I’m beginning to know how he feels.

Meanwhile I’ve become aware that people in different regions of China explain their food preferences in terms of the local climate and its effects on the body and the spirit, changing their diets with the season and even with age and sex. That deep understanding of the impact of different foods and spices is handed down seamlessly from generation to generation. I will let Shane take up the story of this latest recipe…

Shane says:
“As the season changes and Beijing gets chillier, it’s much easier to get run down and there’s a higher chance of picking up a nasty cold or falling ill. For this reason, Chinese diet and choice of food often switches to help keep warm from the inside. Sound familiar?

However, much as some of the soups and stews prepared may remind me of winters at home in Ireland, the reasons for and use of some of the ingredients surprised me.

Ginger has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine and cooking to prevent or cure the common cold and warm the body. Garlic (much like at home) is considered a ‘warrior’ for the body, cleansing oneself of harmful bacteria picked up in every day life and from less healthy eating.

As winter in Northern China is also very dry (unlike back home), it is generally advised not to eat too much spicy food, as it is itself considered to be very dry and can affect the balance of a body and its ability to retain moisture.

This dish, prepared lovingly by Shan on a rainy Sunday (after I failed to find ingredients for ‘Fajitas: Sichuan Style’), contains ginger and hearty winter vegetables and is much milder in taste than many Chinese dishes you may have tried before. Hopefully it will prepare you to pass the winter with warmth and health.”

Shan’s Winter Ginger Chicken Stew – dong ji jiang wei dun ji – 冬季姜味炖鸡

Shan’s winter ginger chicken stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 x chicken breasts
  • Ginger, small chunk
  • Garlic, half bulb
  • 1 tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 1/2 medium sized onion
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • Cooking oil
  • 3 slices of rasher (preferably smoked flavour), rind removed and chopped into chunks
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 medium carrots
  • Salt to taste
  • Rice to serve

Preparation:
1. Cut chicken breasts into chunks.
2. Crush half of your ginger to release the juice (I used a garlic crusher) along with 3 cloves of garlic. Crush your Sichuan pepper to a powder*. Get your honey and soy sauce. Mix all well with the chicken breast in a bowl and marinate for 15 minutes.
3. Cut your rashers (we defrosted some Denny’s brought from Ireland) into small pieces.
4. Cut the carrots and potato into big chunks and onion into fine pieces.
5. Cut the rest of the garlic into small pieces and the rest of the ginger into thin slices.

*Julie butts in (cheekily) “I like to dry roast the Sichuan pepper before grounding and always have a small supply prepared”.

Cooking:
1. Put some cooking oil into a stewing pot (no wok this time).
2. Add garlic and onions when the oil is hot. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
3. Throw in the rasher pieces and cook well.
4. Add the chicken pieces and fry until it is almost cooked through.
5. Put in the ginger slices, potato and carrot. Add water to just cover all the ingredients.
6. Bring the water to boil then simmer for 20 minutes or as long as the potato takes to cook. Add salt half way through to taste.
7. Serve with rice.

Notes:

1. You can use chicken stock, or a light lager beer, instead of plain water.
2. If you like it spicy, add chopped chilli when cooking the onion.

Verdict:

Sounds like just what I needed over the last few days and I look forward to trying it soon. I will add a bit of chilli as we have a bit of dampness to contend with here in Ireland that’s in need of drying out! And I love the fact that Shan made it in Beijing with Irish bacon – good old Denny’s to the rescue 🙂

Claire’s Summer Chicken in Oz:

Meanwhile Claire cooked her chicken dish in temperatures of 30 degrees C in Sydney! Her dish includes ginger, spring onion, chilli and cucumber as well as a light sauce of soy sauce, potato flour, Chiankiang vinegar and Shaoxing wine.

Glad to see Claire is getting good at getting prepared!

She served it with stir-fried broccoli with chilli and Sichuan pepper, a dish I’ve already tried and enjoyed.

Claire’s verdict from down under:

“The chicken is super fast to cook and tastes really light and tender. The broccoli has a great kick, I love Sichuan pepper and dried chilli!”

Claire’s summer chicken dish

Sigh, pity neither of them are around to cook dinner for us now but I’m so glad they are sharing the fun and the food. I guess chicken is good for the soul at any time of year.

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