Gong Bao Chicken

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This dish can pack as much of a punch as the name implies OR it can be as mild as you want it to be. If you enjoy chicken chow mein and nutty Asian flavours, read on…

Gong Bao Chicken 

One of my absolute favourite chefs is Adam Liaw. He was the winner of Masterchef Australia Season 2 in 2010 by a landslide, and is one of those cooks that can come up with an amazing recipe on the spot, with minimal, potentially mismatched ingredients all without breaking a sweat. That kind of talent is hard to come by. I’m nowhere near there yet, but it all starts with experimenting, taking existing recipes that tickle your fancy and making them your own. Use ingredients that you love, and think will work better than the originals. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s how you learn.

I got this Gong Bao Chicken recipe from Adam Liaw’s first cookbook, Two Asian Kitchens, which my oh so thoughtful hubby bought for me. The first half of the cookbook takes us on a journey through the tastiest dishes Adam’s parents and grandparents cooked for him when he was a boy, and the last half introduces us to the recipes he engineered all on his own, using the aforementioned dishes as inspiration. He came from a family with mixed cultures, Hainese Chinese from Malaysia, Singaporean-born with English, French and Indonesian heritage, and his childhood was spent in 20 different homes between Penang and South Australia, so his dinners were a mishmash of anything and everything as long as it was tasty. Sounds good to me.

What I like about his story is that he took the best aspects from everything he loved as a boy and applied himself further to making the dishes even better, and more him. By applying his own favourite flavours, techniques and creativity, he has created his own generation of dishes that he can pass onto his kids. This is what I intend to do in my kitchen too.

Asian was not a word used all too often in our house when it came to food, so this dish is not really an alteration of one from my childhood. But we did have many chicken and mushroom stir fries. I loved these, but looking back on them now, the chicken breast strips could have been juicier or more marinaded, and it could have done with a little bit more texture. So, here’s my “Asian-ified” improvement on chicken stir fry from the good old days, mixed with my much milder “South African-ified” version of Adam Liaw’s gong bao “chilli” chicken.

RECIPE:

  • Serves: 2 – 4
  • Pre-prep the night before: 15 mins
  • Marinating: overnight
  • Prep & cook time: 45 mins to 1 hour 15 min (depending on whether your shitake mushrooms are fresh or dehydrated)

Ingredients:

  • 60g roasted cashews (instead of peanuts)
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1/2 red dried chili (with seeds if you like it hot)
  • Splash of sunflower oil
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, cut into 1.5cm lengths
  • 200g shitake mushrooms
  • 3/4 onion roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Egg Noodles for 4 portions

1 Quantity Basic Stir-Fry Marinade:

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 grind of cracked black pepper

Sauce: 

  • 1 tbsp castor sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 60 ml chicken stock – 1/4 cube chicken stock cube in 60ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp cornflower

Method:

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  1. The night before cooking your dish, make your basic stir fry marinade and soak your chicken pieces in an enclosed tub in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next evening, soak your shitakes in warm water for 40 mins if they are dehydrated. If they are fresh, then skip this step.
  3. Prep all your ingredients and make your sauce
  4. Boil a pot of water, add olive oil and salt and add the noodles. Cook until al dente.
  5. Meanwhile, heat up your wok on medium heat, then drip sunflower oil along the sides to evenly coat. Add half your chili, white onions, ginger and garlic and fry for a minute.
  6. Add your marinaded chicken to the wok and mix up allowing the chicken to brown all over
  7. Add the rest of the onions, ginger, garlic and chili and half of the spring onions. Turn the heat down slightly, toss and cook until this chicken is almost cooked through.
  8. Add your sauce and cook for a further minute or until the chicken is cooked through.
  9. Add your shitakes (all water must be squeezed out of these if they have just been rehydrated) and your cashew nuts. Toss to coat and heat evenly.
  10. Serve your wok mixture on a single portion of noodles per bowl and garnish with the rest of the spring onion.
  11. Enjoy!

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