This meal was a little tough. Mostly because (unlike next week’s Thai meal) there’s a LOT of prepping AND cooking.
There’s cutting the meat into small enough chunks to make it presentable and to fit in the fried rice. There’s prepping sauces and vegetables. And then there’s a lot of cooking and frying.
Ok, so it’s not overwhelming to a seasoned kitchen veteran but it may not be one you want to try if you only get in the kitchen say every few months or so.
This is also not too far off what you’ll find in any Chinese restaurant although I like to think it’s better with the heart and soul put into making it… from scratch… at home.
The fried rice is actually quite easy and turns out nice even without a wok, however, a wok is highly recommended. Steaming the rice in water and soy sauce is the first step and once done, it goes into the wok or pan along with peas, carrots, scrambled egg, pork and a little more soy sauce over high heat. It has to be stirred constantly with a spatula (this is where a wok comes in handy) to keep it from burning.
The sweet and sour chicken is also easy, it’s just added work to cut it up into bite sized chunks and the frying takes a little while the more you have since it’s next to impossible to cook a large portion of it without an industrial-sized fryer.
The batter is tempura and can either be bought in the ethnic foods section or made at home. Really, it’s little more than flour, baking soda, baking powder and water. Of course I always add more seasoning to the batter as well as marinade my meat in seasonings before hand.
And the rest is simply frying it in oil at the right temperature, being careful noWhich naturally brings us to the sweet and sour sauce. It’s deceptively simple. It’s just granulated white sugar, white vinegar — that I added a splash of rice vinegar to as well — some soy sauce, water, a little ketchup and a bit of cornstarch. The cornstarch serves no other purpose than to thicken up the sauce since it would otherwise be very watery. And when cooked over low heat, it gives it a syrupy texture.
If you’re wondering why the sauce comes out brown, that’s because there are no color additives to give it that orange color that you see in most Chinese restaurants. The taste is unchanged.
Finally, the sweet and sour pork and chicken is topped with green peppers that are fried for a very short time and some fresh pineapple chunks.
Lastly, the cashew chicken. I start with a little oil to coat the pan and throw in the cashews until they get nice and toasted, blackened even if that’s your forte. It adds an extra flavor profile to the dish. And in go the onions, green peppers, green onions, fresh grated ginger, chicken and spices along with a mixture of soy, sesame oil and water.
It gets cooked over high heat. Again, this is where a wok is recommended and if you use a regular frying pan, be sure to fold constantly with a spatula. It only needs to be cooked until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
The result: A full meal any Chinaman would be proud of. And it’s all homemade. That’s always worth the work required for a dish like this. Of course, you’re not obligated to make all of it at once. Experimentation is always encouraged.
Oh and Dude, Chinaman is NOT the preferred nomenclature. 慢慢吃 (Eat slowly)!