Spicy General Tso Chicken

This is it, the final dish in this week’s Chinese New Year series and what a tasty week it’s been! So many great Chinese food recipes out there but I chose three of the ones I always order when I’m in the mood for take out. My third dish is spicy General Tso chicken. Yes, I can hear you, “that’s so American” but I just couldn’t help myself. I just love the sweet, spicy and crispy flavors in this dish. When I’m in the mood for real Chinese I’ll just head over to Joe Shanghai’s in New York City’s Chinatown or Szechuan Gourmet on 39th, and when I’m really feeling adventurous I’ll trek over to Main St, Queens!

I selected a recipe I had bookmarked from the From Away blog simply because the photos were stunning and mouth watering. Making recipes from books, magazines, and online sites can be a hit or a miss at times since dishes never come out exactly as shown or expected. This one however was a definite hit! I did make a couple of changes like adding more chile peppers because I just like it extra spicy and found a great substitute for sherry because I didn’t have any but other than that I pretty much followed their instructions step by step.

I didn’t have sherry on hand and figured I can use dry white wine as as substitute. I usually keep wine stocked but nooo, I didn’t have that either! No worries though, not all was lost since apparently a mixture of vinegar, sugar and lemon works just as well, thanks to Google! Let me tell you, the dish tasted just like the restaurant version, but only better! Maybe the sherry would have made a slight difference and next time I make this I’ll try it but I was very happy with the results. Here I paired the spicy general tso chicken  with a lychee martini to complement the dish, see martini recipe below. This is really a great meal, and not the sugary, fatty mess you sometimes get from fast foods restaurants. Once you make this, I’m sure you won’t want to order it again.

Spicy General Tso Chicken with Rice
adapted from From Away

1/4 cup of chicken stock
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
2 tsp of sesame oil
2 tsp of sirracha
3 tbsp of sugar
2 tsp corn starch + 1/3 cup for coating chicken
1 lb boneless chicken breast, cubed
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
10 dried Chinese chile peppers – break open 2 when cooking
3 scallions, diced 1/2 in
oil for frying

1. Add the first 7 ingredients to a bowl, then add the cornstarch and mix well, set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, add diced chicken, sherry substitute (mix white vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, lemon) and let marinate for 15 minutes. After marinating, pat dry the chicken with paper towels and add the 1/3 cup of cornstarch until chicken is well coated.

3. Fry chicken in a pan with vegetable oil until crispy, about 8 minutes, make sure both sides are cooked. Remove chicken from oil and place on paper towels to absorb oil. Discard oil used but leave about a tbsp.

4. Add garlic, ginger to pan and saute for a few seconds then add scallions and peppers and saute for less than a minute. For a spicier dish, break apart at least 2 of the chile peppers. Add the fried chicken to pan and stir well. Finally, add the liquid mixture and continue to stir until sauce thickens.

5. Serve over white or brown rice!

Lychee Martini
1 part vodka
1 part lychee juice
lychee for garnish

Add vodka and lychee juice to a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake it, shake it! Drop a lychee to a chilled martini glass and pour. Enjoy!

Spicy Pork Wontons with Dipping Sauce

This week I’m celebrating the Chinese New Year with food! I’m preparing a few of my favorite dishes, well at least the easier ones, kicked up a bit with spice! I’ve been looking for simple recipes for a while and found an Asian inspired meatball recipe and thought it would make a great wonton filling. The recipe called for turkey meatballs but I wanted to work with ground pork for my wontons so I omitted a few ingredients and added some spice. This meatball/filling is so incredibly good you can make anything with it. I can definitely see an Asian inspired burger in the near future! So even if you don’t celebrate Chinese New Year you can make this recipe your own and serve it for any gathering.

Here’s what I did…I chopped up a couple of scallions, added soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and hot chile peppers to ground pork and mixed it up really well.

I then spooned about a tsp of meat into center of wrappers and shaped the wontons. The first couple I made were terrible but I got the hang of it once I got into my groove. This was actually fun and couldn’t wait to taste them. I felt like kid completing a really important project for school except I was going to do the grading!

Spicy Pork Wontons
recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes over 2 dozen

1 lb of ground pork
2 tbsp of soy sauce (low sodium)
1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp of sesame oil
3 scallions, chopped
2 hot chile peppers (Indian or Thai), chopped
wonton wrappers
canola oil for frying

1. Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and blend well with fork. Cover and let sit in frig for at least 1 hour.

2. Line up your wonton wrappers on a board and spoon in 1 teaspoon of meat mixture in the center of wrapper.

3. Dab your finger in water and wet the edges of wrapper. Folder over wrapper to cover meat so you’ll be left with triangle shape. Grab each of the longer ends of triangle and bring together to form a little bonnet. Dab with a bit of water so the ends stick together.

4. Heat up oil in saute pan and add wonton wrappers when oil is hot. Do not let the oil smoke. Make sure its on medium heat and fry wrappers for 2 minutes on each side. Make these in small batches so its more manageable. Transfer cooked wrappers to paper towels to absorb oil and serve with dipping sauce.

I only used half the batch to make wontons and decided to reserve enough for two burger patties that I froze, then I made these spicy little pork meatballs! This is a very versatile recipe and I’m sure you can think of many ways to have this so please enjoy!!

Spicy Pork Meatballs

Just roll 1-2 tsp of meat between palms and fry mini meatballs in oil, enough oil to coat pan. Fry on medium heat for about 3 minutes making sure to fry on side first then the other. These are mouth-watering good! Definitely making these again for the Superbowl!!!

Scallion Pancakes and Spiced Dipping Sauce

Happy Chinese New Year! The year of the Dragon is said to be the luckiest of all the animal signs and to honor this special year I decided to finally prepare some of my favorite Chinese dishes. I’ve always been intimidated with Chinese cooking because it looks complicated and the ingredients aren’t items I normally keep stocked. I was inspired after seeing so many gorgeous dishes on the web and finding seemingly easy recipes so I pushed forward and just went for it…and very happy with the results.

So this week I’m preparing a few dishes that I always order when I go out for Chinese food. I decided on scallion pancakes, spicy pork dumplings and General Tso chicken. I have a few other favorites but baby steps folks, this is a first for me so don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. I do think I’ll leave the fancy dishes to the experts though. These dishes that I’ll be featuring in the next few days are adaptions of recipes I’ve been collecting. The first is the scallion pancake. I just couldn’t believe how easy it was to make scallion pancakes! Why didn’t I try this sooner?! In the next coming days I’ll post my versions of dumplings, wontons and General Tso. Also, a special thanks to From Away blog for sharing this recipe! So Yummy!!

Scallion Pancakes (makes 4)
recipe adapted from From Away

2 cups of flour
1 cup of boiling water
1 cup of scallions, diced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
2-3 tbsp canola oil

1. Add flour to mixing bowl and turn to medium speed while slowing pouring in boiling water until dough starts to form.

2. Flour a board and roll dough in a ball. Flatten dough with palm of hand and cut into 4 pieces. Take each piece and roll into 4 separate balls. *I made half the recipe above to make 2 pancakes.

3. Take one of the balls and flatten again with palm, roll dough out to an 6-8 inch disk. Brush lightly with sesame oil on both sides then roll into a cigar shape. Next roll into a coil shape as shown below.

4. Take coil shaped dough and repeat step #3 above but before rolling into cigar, sprinkle the scallion around and add a pinch of the red pepper flakes.

5. Roll into cigar shape again making sure none of the scallion falls out, then into coil shape as shown below. Flatten down dough and roll out into disk.

6. Fry pancake in 1 tbsp of oil for about 2 minutes on each side on medium heat. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn but it should be a bit crispy.

7. Cut into wedges and serve with spicy dipping sauce.

Spicy Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp diced scallions
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sugar

Mix all ingredients and let sit out so flavor can blend well.