Sometimes I Cook: Thai Basil Fried Rice

06/23/15 12:05 AM

Sometimes I cook spicy Thai basil fried rice (Khao Pad Kra Prao Gai.) It’s one of my wife’s very favorite meals, and the kids are starting to enjoy it as well (I dial back the spiciness on their portion though!)

This will prepare one serving, so adjust quantities as needed. This is a relatively simple dish to cook, but does take some time to purchase and prepare all of the ingredients before you heat up the wok.

Any decent Asian grocery store will carry the sweet soy sauce and the Thai basil. There are a lot of similar recipes online that will have you substitute the sweet soy sauce with regular soy sauce and sugar – DON’T DO IT. Your final dish will be too salty, and taste more like bad Chinese food. Accept no substitutes.

You can plug-‘n-play some of the ingredients listed here per your own tastes.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb sliced chicken breast
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1-2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 2-4 serrano peppers (finely chopped)
  • 3-4 cups cooked Jasmine rice (at least a day old, not fresh)
  • 2-3 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 2-3 Tbs. dark sweet soy sauce
  • 2-3 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (washed)
  • Ground white pepper
  • Lime wedges

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Directions

Heat up your wok to medium-high heat and add the oil. Add in the garlic and cook it in the hot oil for twenty seconds. Do not allow it to burn.

Add in the chicken slices and cook just until it is no longer pink.

Now it’s time to toss in the veggies (onions, bell peppers, shallots, and serrano peppers. Allow these to cook with the chicken for about a minute.

Next is the rice. Add the rice to the pan and toss it rapidly with the chicken and vegetables for a minute until it is heated through and covered with oil.

Once the rice has been thoroughly heated, you can add in the sweet soy sauce and the fish sauce. Adjust the quantities for the flavor you like.

Mix thoroughly. After the sauce has been heated, you can add in the basil leaves and allow to wilt (about thirty seconds.) Sprinkle lightly with white pepper.

Now dump it onto a plate, garnish with lime wedge and enjoy!

Sometimes I Cook: General Tso’s Chicken

04/18/15 11:49 PM

Ah, General Tso’s. A staple of Chinese-American takeout food, and a dish that I’m quite fond of. There are many recipes out there for General Tso’s chicken. This one is mine. Quantities here will provide 10-12 servings. Prep time varies with the quantity, but this amount usually takes me two hours or more to complete.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups peanut oil for frying
  • 4 eggs
  • 5-6 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 2 pinches white pepper
  • 2 cups cornstarch

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil

  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 dried whole red chilies
  • 6 strips orange zest

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

I like to mix the sauce together first, giving the sugar some time to dissolve before we need it at the end. Fish sauce, a favorite of mine, isn’t commonly added to this dish. I find that a couple of tablespoons adds a nice umani flavor, however. Mix together 1 cup of sugar with the ginger, broth, vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame and peanut oils. Set the bowl aside.

Next up, prep your garlic, orange zest, and scallions. You could also use this time to steam some rice (not listed in the ingredients, but c’mon, you should be on top of that already.)

In a large bowl, whip together the eggs with the salt, sugar, and white pepper. Add your cubed chicken to this mixture and make sure every piece is coated. I call for breast meat here, though thighs are much more commonly used. If you are careful not to overcook them, the breast meat does very nicely in this dish. My family prefers the white meat, so that’s what we use. At this point, you should pre-heat your frying oil to around 375 degrees.

Measure out two cups of corn starch and begin slowly incorporating it into the chicken/egg mixture. Work it in until the pieces are mostly coated in corn starch. I don’t worry about them being perfectly coated. You need just enough to make the exterior crispy and to give the sauce a surface to cling to.

Now you can start tossing the chicken pieces into the hot oil. You’ll want to fry these in small batches. I typically fill a skillet with oil and drop 12-18 pieces of chicken into the bottom. Once the chicken begins floating toward the surface (3-4 minutes) remove them and replace with the next batch.

They should be lightly golden in color.

Once you have completed the initial fry, we’re going to do it again for each batch of chicken. This second fry will both crisp the exterior and re-heat the chicken in time for a dunking in the sauce. Allow them to cook in the oil for 2 minutes and then dump them into a large bowl nearby.

Now it’s time to move to your wok. Heat your wok up to medium-high just long enough to heat a few tablespoons of oil. Remove the wok from direct heat and toss in your minced garlic (I remove from heat to be sure we don’t burn the garlic — it doesn’t take much!) Now add in the scallions, peppers, and orange zest and return to direct heat. Stir rapidly for a minute, until everything has softened up and the peppers have brightened.

Pour in your sauce mixture and allow it to reach boiling for two minutes.

Mix together the water and two tablespoons of corn starch and add to the boiling sauce mixture.

Allow this cloudy sauce to boil until it becomes a clear mixture again.

Now you can add the chicken to your wok. Stir it around rapidly, covering each cube in the sauce for a minute or two.

Call your flock to the table, because it’s time to eat!