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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recipe! Vietnamese Stir Fry

Recipe Ruts. You know what I'm talking about...those times when everything seems old and bland and overdone, when you look at your pantry and think there can't possibly be any new, interesting way to put these same old ingredients together....can there? It's frustrating for any cook, and unfortunately, it's exactly what I found myself fighting with this week while I tried to conjure up a meal plan.

Fortunately, I know the secret of breaking recipe ruts and that is, without a doubt...try something different! Not just a little different, but a lot different. Pick a country whose cuisine you haven't ever made, and if you've made cuisine from every country or the ingredients aren't available, just pick something you've never done before. You can try a new take on an old classic, or take a real risk and go out on a culinary limb...just stretch yourself and enjoy the feeling of freedom!

The cure for my rut was Vietnamese food. It's something I've wanted to try my hand at for awhile because of the interesting blend of spices, the ingredients, all the cultures that have contributed to it. It's a delicious type of food and in my town, if you want Vietnamese food, you have to make it yourself.

I ran across the Viet World Kitchen Blog, which might be the best thing that has ever happened to me. The recipes are clear and I want to make several of them, but due to limited ingredients I stuck with one. Look for more recipes to come! This is a Chicken Stir Fry in Black Bean Sauce, very lightly adapted from this recipe over at Viet World Kitchen. A few notes:

Fermented Black Beans are also called "Salted Black Beans" and can be found at your local Asian or Ethnic market. You can click the link to buy them on Amazon, if you don't have an Asian market nearby! Do not skip these or substitute!

- The recipe could be made with tofu for a vegetarian version.

- I doubled this recipe, which fed three over rice noodles and with a salad on the side. With brown rice, it would probably feed four. My version of the recipe is already doubled. To feed two, half this version of the recipe!

- The method for this recipe is important, so make sure you have your mis en place!

Vietnamese Chicken Stir Fry With Black Bean Sauce

3 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 t soy flour
2 t plus 2 T rice wine OR dry sherry
4 t tamari or regular soy sauce
1 t plus 1/2 t salt
2 t plus 3 T canola oil
2 T fermented black beans, rinsed
4 t minced garlic
4 t minced ginger
2 t dark (thick) soy sauce
2/3 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 scallions, shredded or chopped

1. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, soy flour, 2 t of rice wine, light soy sauce and 1 t of salt. Stir, then stir in 1 t of oil and continue stirring until combined. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, mash up fermented black beans with garlic, ginger, and the dark soy sauce. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine broth and 2 T rice wine. Set aside.

3. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Stir in remaining 4 T canola oil and add red onion and red pepper flakes. Stir fry with a spatula fir 30 seconds or so, or until onions begin to wilt. Push the onions to the sides of your wok or skillet and put chicken in the middle, spreading it into an even layer. allow it to cook for one minute. It should be starting to sear. Stir fry for about one minute.

4. Add carrots and black bean mixture, stir for 30 seconds. Swirl in the broth and rice vinegar mixture, sprinkle with 1/2 t of salt, and stir fry 1-2 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in scallion and serve over rice, rice noodles, or similar, immediately after cooking.

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