Saturday, 1 March 2014
So I'm sitting in the kitchen at my work the other day, eating my leftovers for lunch, and my co-worker (my mentor, my Indian guru) says to me (with this really sly smile) "I make Chili Chicken last night". She has a thick accent,so that's really what she said. She knows she's said something to really hook me. Chili Chicken--those are magic words.
She shows me the food in her container. It LOOKS like hakka-region style Chili Chicken. The very kind that haunted me, that was the bane of my existence after I switched to a paleo diet. It was the one take-out food that could bring me to my knees-literally-because I could not say no to it, and I totally could not digest it.
"Taste it", she says. "Iz ok, I use corn starch." So I tasted it. I love JP, love all the food she's had me taste, all the things she's taught me about traditional cooking, and I loved her Chili Chicken. It had never even occurred to me that I could re-create such a dish. Sure, I know how to make the chili-garlic green beans with shrimp that we've gotten there. But Chili Chicken? Oooooh yea!
Now, hakka-region style Chili Chicken is kerpow-hot. It'll knock your socks off. And it's full of those crazy, skinny little indian hot peppers--I think they use serrano. Those little gems are not-so-hot in the mouth, but when they get to your belly, they burn their way back up the esophagus and then downwards, too, causing some people to have a little 'cleanse' after their first hakka experience. I won't do that to you here, don't worry. I couldn't even find serrano peppers around where I live, so I had to get creative and use jalapeno peppers, hot banana peppers, and sriracha sauce in place of the regular chili sauce. Once cooked, jalapenos and banana peppers become quite mild. Even my spice-hating kid didn't complain. So if you can find the serrano peppers, experiment with one or two in the dish, along with the jalapenos. If you DO use the serrano peppers, you might want to try using a mild chili-garlic sauce in place of the sriracha sauce, just for balance. Or not. Your choice.
Of course JP told me how to make the dish, but JP's instructions were something like this "Toss the chicken in starch and turmeric. Then you make the sauce with soy sauce, hot sauce, garlic, cut up chilis and onions"... And that was about all I could retain of what she said. So I had to Google a recipe that sounded like what she told me. Because I'm like that.
This is what I found at a website called Curry and Comfort. I soooo have to stalk that website a little more later. Anyhow....a few paleo and taste bud tweaks, and I arrived here:
Serves 6 if served with cauli-rice
Takes about 1/2 hour
2 Tbs tomato paste
3 Tbs tomato sauce
2 Tbs sriracha sauce*
4 Tbs gluten-free tamari sauce**
2 tsp coconut sugar***
1 1/2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken (I used thigh meat)
2 Tbs tapioca starch or arrowroot powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 spanish onion, sliced
2 jalapeno peppers
2 banana peppers
2 serrano peppers, optional
pinch hot pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
First, mix chicken, tapioca starch and turmeric, then set aside. Then, mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside. Heat up a large non-stick frypan (I like ceramic pans for this kind of stuff) to med-high. In cooking oil of choice (I used coconut oil), fry up your chicken until no longer pink and crispy bits begin to form. Set aside. While chicken is cooking, seed and chop your peppers, slice your onions, dig out and prep your onions and ginger. Once the chicken is out of the pan, add onions and peppers in and saute. When onion is almost done, add ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute more. Then, reduce heat to medium and add your sauce and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Then add chicken back in and heat through. taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
This is a dish you can throw in a casserole dish and set in the oven to keep warm until you make any side dish. It stays warm well, it re-heats well. I set mine aside in the oven at this point and made my Fried Cauliflower Rice, just omitted the pork (and broth cubes) and used it as a side dish. Voila. Try it. I think you'll love it!
* you can use any asian-style chili sauce in this depending on your heat preferences and what you own
**you can use coconut aminos here, too
***you could soak two dates in boiling water, puree, and use them instead if you're avoiding all sugars