Here’s the second installment in my Letters from France series. Okay, now I know what you’re thinking. What kind of a French recipe is this? Well, as it turns out, one of the things I missed the most when I was living in Paris was Cantonese food. About a month into living in a predominantly immigrant-less neighborhood, I began to miss the dishes I had grown up with. It was utterly bizarre and incomprehensible to me, in a country full of delicious baguettes and quality dairy products, that I should suddenly miss a cuisine that is rice-based and doesn’t use cheese. The food cravings when you live abroad are REAL, y’all.
I had a hard time finding places that served Cantonese food, even though Vietnamese was relatively easy to come by. But it wasn’t the same. So I went out to the local Casino (a supermarket chain in France), and bought garlic, sub-standard soy sauce, and star anise, all to make a soy sauce chicken on the weekend — the two days a week when we didn’t have dinner with our host family.
Here’s another recipe I missed very much: chicken with snow peas, a favorite from my childhood. I love to add shitake mushrooms to this dish as well, but they are of course optional. Woodears or canned straw mushrooms would also be delightful in this dish.
Of course, I had to come back to America to be able to make this. I never had the time to scour the markets in Paris to figure out where I could buy these ingredients, but I’m sure someone is selling them somewhere.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 ¼-inch slices ginger root
- 1½ cups snow peas
- 5 dried shitake mushrooms (aka Chinese black mushrooms)
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tbsp chicken broth
- White pepper
- Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- Thickening solution:
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- Pinch white pepper
- Wok or large skillet (12″)
Note: There are two things I keep out all the time when making a stir-fry. One is a cup of water or broth in case the wok gets too dry, and the other is extra thickening solution for the sauce.
Mix all ingredients for the sauce, set aside. Taste the sauce mixture to determine if it is well-seasoned. Add salt if necessary.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature.
Place the shitake mushrooms in a small bowl, and soak them in boiling water, stem side down, for 10-15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. As you work, you can place the vegetables on a large plate, each in a separate pile, to simplify the process of adding them to the wok later.
Break off the stem end of the snow peas and pull down along the edge of the pod to remove the fibrous strings. Set aside.
Once the mushrooms are soft, remove the tough stems, and slice the mushrooms. Set aside.
Cut the chicken breasts crosswise into ¼-inch slices, and place in a bowl. Combine with ½ tsp cornstarch, 1 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry, ¼ tsp salt, and a small pinch of white pepper. Stir the mixture until you no longer see any traces of the cornstarch. Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Heat the canola oil in a wok over high heat. When you can see waves in the surface of the oil, it’s hot enough. Add garlic and ginger; stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Add the chicken, stirring constantly, breaking it up so that each piece cooks separately. Cook until you cannot see any traces of pink in the meat, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from wok to a plate.
Over high heat, add the mushrooms, snow peas, 2 tbsp broth and ¼ tsp sugar. Cook until the snow peas have turned a bright green color but still have a bit of crunch, about 2 minutes.
Re-stir the sauce mixture and add it to the wok. Heat until boiling. Add the chicken back to the wok, and add thickening solution until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. (If the thickening solution has separated, stir it up again — you don’t want lumps of cornstarch in your sauce!) Remove ginger pieces and serve immediately. Enjoy!