19 August 2014

Chicken Chow Mein - who needs the takeaway?

Who needs a takeaway?  Not me, not now I've discovered this Chicken Chow Mein recipe.  Oh boy but it was good.  Chow mein from a Chinese takeaway is always good - it's one of our favourites and so that goes without saying.  However, this chow mein was full of everything that does you good with very few things that don't - and no MSG.

Once again, I have to thank Slimming World for the original recipe (which is here) that I have taken and boosted a wee bit for flavour and interest.

Now I really wasn't in the mood for cooking this evening.  I've had a little run of cooking dinner for the last four or five days and I'm about ready for a day off.  (Hubby is stepping into the breach tomorrow, so don't feel too sorry for me - a break is on the horizon!).  I think there must be rain due sometime soon, if my knees are to be believed!  Ouch.

Because this dish is another great two-pot deal (one for the noodles, one for the stir fry), all it required was a half hour's a-chopping and a-peeling, then it was a classic case of sit there and add stuff in order, stirring as you go.  Perfect.  I most definitely wasn't feeling ready for a "dotting about the kitchen, many different processes" type of dinner.  Nuh-uh.

I will admit that I've not made too many changes to the original recipe.  I opted not to use chilli sauce for the marinade, but to chop a live chilli instead.  My tummy can sometimes react badly to the ingredients in hot sauces, so I thought I'd go for the "hot" and leave the "sauce" in the cupboard for the boys to play with.  I also left out the ginger, because Hubby can be sensitive to ginger.  Feel free to add it back in, if you like it!

I also did away with the tinned bamboo shoots, not because I don't like them - I really like them - but it just adds to the expense to be buying a tin of water chestnuts and a tin of bamboo shoots.  Yes, I know you can get tins of stir fry mix that carry them both, but bleugh - who wants tinned bean sprouts?  I much prefer water chestnuts, so I opted to go with those.  Now I also added a few mushrooms, because a stir fry isn't a stir fry without mushrooms in it.  Also, I was surprised to see that there were no bean sprouts included in the original recipe.  Again, a chow mein just isn't right without bean sprouts - so I added a couple of big handfuls of those.  I will admit to being heartily sick of red pepper at the moment, so I reduced that down to a half a pepper.  Feel free to add any of your own favourite stir fry veggies or to take any of my favourites out - after all, it's your dinner!

Now once upon a time, I would always cook a chicken breast per person.  However, I quickly realised that this simply resulted in too much chicken.  Yes, I know, is there such a thing as "too much chicken"?  Well yes, particularly when it goes into a bowl for lunchtime tomorrow, then we get sidetracked and lunchtime tomorrow doesn't happen - and it gets thrown away.  Now that is just heartbreaking.  So in these enlightened times, I generally work on two chicken breasts between three people, but then our butcher's chicken breasts are a very generous size.  I'll leave you to decide how much is enough for your family.

We loved this recipe.  Even Son and heir loved this recipe - and he has been known to dislike stir fry recipes, recipes that include red pepper, recipes that include water chestnuts, etc. etc.  So for Son and heir to tuck into his dinner without a murmur of complaint, is quite some vote of approval.  Hubby even went back for seconds - and at 355 calories (approx.) per portion, he could easily do that without upsetting his diet!

I really enjoyed this recipe.  From the first mouthful to the last, I was happy.  For all the chilli involved, it wasn't very hot spicy at all.  I loved the flavour of the noodles, the mixture of the vegetables, the texture of the chicken - it was all just gorgeous.  I served the chow mein with a little handful of prawn crackers - just to provide a different texture and a little added interest.  Yummy.

There aren't very many Cook's Tips for you about this one, just the following :

-  make sure to have done all your chopping and peeling before you start cooking.  Once you start cooking, it all happens very quickly!

-  make sure the water for the noodles is boiling before you begin cooking the stir fry, as you want the noodles ready and waiting.  The veggies won't wait like the noodles can!

-  be brave over the heat under your wok.  You need it to be at top whack, blisteringly hot, to keep everything from stewing.  Stewing would be just yuk.  Frying is what we want - so you're going to have to move fast to stop bits from burning!

-  make sure to add the sesame oil to the noodles once they're done.  It seems like a stage that could be dropped, but it makes SO MUCH difference to the flavour!

So that's about it!  Do try this one, it really is something special.

CHICKEN CHOW MEIN    (serves 3-4)

Ingredients :

4 tbsp light soy sauce
1 red chilli, half chopped, half sliced for garnish
1 tbsp Chinese rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced
200g dried medium egg noodles
2 tsp sesame oil
100g mangetout, halved lengthways
100g baby sweetcorn, halved or quartered lengthways
half a red pepper, sliced finely
100g canned water chestnuts, drained and sliced
8 spring onions, sliced diagonally
3 large mushrooms, halved and sliced
2 big handfuls of beansprouts
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
thinly sliced raw red chilli, for garnish.

Method :

1.  Stir together in a large bowl, the light soy sauce, chilli, vinegar, garlic and five spice powder.  Add the sliced chicken and stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Leave to marinate for 10 minutes or the time it takes to prepare the vegetables.

2.  Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and drain well, adding the sesame oil and giving them a good toss to keep them from sticking to one another. 

3.  Using a large wok (because there's a lot to go into it!) add the sunflower oil and heat to as hot as you dare.  Add the chicken mixture and stir-fry over a high heat until all pink is gone and the chicken is beginning to brown.

4.  Add all the mangetout, red pepper and baby sweetcorn and stir-fry until the sweetcorn has begun to soften.

5.  Add the onions, mushrooms and water chestnuts and continue to cook until the mushrooms are softened.

6.  Add the beansprouts and stir to combine.

7.  Add the noodles, sweet chilli sauce and dark soy sauce and cook for a further few minutes until piping hot.

Serve immediately with sliced red chillies sprinkled over and a few prawn crackers.

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