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This simple and classic stir-fry combines tender strips of lean marinated chicken breast with scallions and ginger. With a marinade that enhances the natural flavor of the chicken while helping it stay moist and juicy, this is the kind of quick and easy meal that is custom-designed to be thrown together on a busy Tuesday night.
Start by slicing your chicken breast. I like to slice it with the knife held perpendicular to the long edge of the breast, which naturally makes cuts align at a 40 to 45-degree bias to the grain. This makes for strips that are tender with a bit of pleasant chew.
The marinade contains a few key ingredients. Salt and soy sauce both tenderize meat while enhancing its flavor (the latter with glutamates—natural amino acids that enhance meatiness). Sugar balances out the saltiness and helps the meat brown faster. White pepper and a touch of Chinese rice wine add aroma, while oil helps all the flavors distribute evenly over the meat. Finally, a bit of cornstarch helps protect the meat with a layer of insulation. This will keep it tender when it hits the hot wok later on. It takes just half an hour in the fridge for the marinade to work its magic.
Sliced onions and scallions form the vegetable element of the stir-fry.
I like to incorporate ginger in two steps.
A chunk of ginger sizzled in the hot oil before your remaining ingredients are added can bring a layer of flavor to the final dish. I incorporate additional ginger in finely julienned strips, tossed in right at the very end so that they retain their sharp bite.
Opt for vegetable or peanut oil when it comes to stir-frying. They both have a high smoke point and neutral flavor. Once that initial piece of ginger has infused the oil, I discard it.
Next, the chicken goes in. To get a bit of color on it, make sure that the wok is smoking hot before adding. I start by spreading it out in a single layer, letting it sit and cook without moving for about a minute. Then I toss and stir-fry until it's nearly cooked through.
Now if I had a restaurant-quality range, I'd just add my vegetable directly to the same wok, but with a weak home burner, you get better results by cooking in batches. I transfer my chicken to a bowl while I cook the vegetables.
In go the onions and scallions, which I stir-fry until tender and lightly browned.
Finally, I return the chicken to the wok, along with the julienned ginger and some crushed garlic. Just about a minute of cooking is enough to tame their raw bite and help the flavors mingle.
Like many simple home-style stir-fries, this one is a much lighter in the sauce department than you'd expect from a Chinese take-out joint. But don't worry, the marinade and the aromatics still manage to pack in all the flavor you need.
About the Author: I was born in Guangzhou, the birthplace of dim sum, and raised in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia. As a sibling-less child, cooking was a way to cure after school snack attacks and a way to keep myself entertain. That's how my love for food and cooking started, and it continues to grow. I blog at friedwontons4u.com and I am on twitter @friedwontons4u.