As far as my food preferences go I tend to like spicy food, although not all the time. One of my favorite things before going gluten-free was to go get Chinese at one of several local carry-out places. One of my go to dishes was General T’so’s chicken, spicy, and sweet is one of the flavor combinations that I really dig. As we know, Chinese food is generally off limits due to soy sauce. Needless to say, I was bummed. PF Chang’s and its sister Pei Wei have made our lives a little easier as far as Chinese carry-out. After trying the Spicy chicken at Pei Wei I decided I had found a suitable replacement for General T’so! Not quite the same, but it will do. After a few trips I recently realized that not only did I like it, but I was pretty sure I could come up with my own version for a lot less money, and cut out the trip.
This is going to be a bit of a multi-step thing, but they are easy. First thing you need to do is make your sauce. For most cuisines there are sort of base flavors that are commonly used. If you look at a lot of recipes of French dishes you will spot mirepoix which is simply 2 parts onion diced, and then one part each of celery and carrots. This becomes the trinity in cajun cooking be replacing the carrots with green peppers. Lemongrass and galangal are common in Thai dishes, and in Chinese garlic and ginger. I took the garlic and ginger as a base flavor, and built my sauce from there. Here’s what I came up with:
1 1/4 cup orange juice + lime juice to bring the total to 1 1/3 cup
1 TBSP sambal
1 TBSP honey
1 clove ginger crushed
1 quarter inch thick slice of ginger root
Place everything in a pot, and bring it up to a boil. Then take 1 TBSP of corn starch, and combine with enough orange juice to make a slurry. With the pot still boiling add the slurry while whisking. You don’t want clumps so, be sure you are mixing it while you pour. Remove it from the heat, and cool. Keep this in the fridge till you are ready to finish the dish. Really, that was it!
The next thing I did was get all of the other ingredients prepped. I had four chicken breasts, because I wanted leftovers for lunch for the next few days at work. I also had some broccoli, carrot, and yellow bell pepper. The chicken was cut into bite sized cubes, the broccoli I cut into florets, and the yellow pepper and carrot I sliced thinly.
From here this dish came together pretty much like my last stir-fry chicken post. Start with the chicken, and sauté until cooked nearly through. Then add the veggies, and cook until they are tender. Add the sauce to the pan, and stir to combine, and coat everything. Serve over rice, and enjoy! If you are looking for a vegetarian dish, substitute tofu for the chicken, but remember to get the firmest you can otherwise it will break up while you try to sauté it.
A little bit of analysis: Dinner was very tasty, but… not quite right. It was fairly mild, and not quite sweet enough. It was also not quite thick enough. I still have about half the sauce left, and I think my next step will be to add a bit more honey, sambal, and thicken the sauce a little bit more. It was fun to take a shot at reverse engineering a recipe from only tasting eating it. I’m on the right path, so I’ll keep going a little further. This was a little bit of a challenge just due to the fact that there is a fair amount going on in the sauce.
I hope that my experiment inspires you to see what you can do in the kitchen. All it takes is paying attention to what you are eating, and taking a shot at replicating what you taste. Remember that there is more to what you eat than just the taste. There is flavor, scent, and texture. See how close you can get!
If there is anything you would like me to take a shot at reply here, and I’ll see what I can do. I’d love to hear from you guys!
Tonight, A and I decided that we wanted some stir-fry. Although what I make is in no way authentic (and which of you has had authentic Chinese food? Not me.) it is pretty tasty. This is also a very easy thing to tweak. We both had plenty to eat, and all we need is some rice, and we can eat leftovers, and be quite happy.
Piece of ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 or two cloves Garlic minced
Bell Pepper julienned
Carrots Cut in half, and thinly sliced on the bias (I cut them in a strange way tonight, because A wanted to see how I did it.)
8 oz. Snow peas
1 pound of chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
The sauce I use as a basis is a San-J’s Gluten Free Sweet & Tangy Polynesian glazing and dipping sauce.
I adjust it a bit with some sambal oelek to taste. Sambal oelek is a chili sauce, for the most part, it is chilies a little vinegar, and a little salt. Simple stuff, but it adds some nice heat, and balances the sweetness of the sauce. Depending on your tastes you could also add a bit of gluten-free soy sauce.
3/4 cup GF Sweet & Tangy sauce
2 Tbsp sambal
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Finely dice the ginger and mince the garlic. Keep these together. Cut the other veggies, and place in a bowl so they are ready to go. Cube the chicken, you want the pieces small enough to cook fairly quickly. The end of your thumb should be about the max on that.
Next, make your sauce, and taste it. It should be a little salty, sweet, and spicy. I pretty much don’t use any salt or pepper with this, and I have never had a complaint!
Heat a large skillet and some canola oil. You want your skillet to be good and hot when you put the food in. Not sure if the oil is hot enough? Here’s how you can tell. Pick up the skillet, and gently tilt it. The oil will flow easily, and you should see some ripples. I’ll wait. You want it very hot. This goes pretty fast!
First pour in the garlic and ginger, and saute them. This won’t take long at all, and you will start to smell it when it is ready. Next, in goes the chicken, shrimp, tofu, pork, whatever you have. Keep it moving! Once the chicken is cooked almost through add the vegetables. Keep the contents of the skillet moving. Once the veggies are cooked about as much as you want add the sauce and stir it through, it will thin out and coat everything in the skillet and give you a nice sauce. Serve over rice, and enjoy!
You could put almost anything in that you want. Broccoli, bok choy, napa cabbage, squash, zucchini, whatever veggies you like. As far as the chicken, what do you want to put in? Its totally up to you.
So, there you have it. I’m sure you’ll like it, and hopefully you can work it into your busy weeks dinner sometime!