Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WW: Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken

Wok Wednesdays: Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

                      Chinese Burmese [Cayenne] Chicken

This is one recipe you will want to try for it's a keeper. I'll for sure be making this again.

The onion, garlic, ginger, and spices sizzling away was intoxicating - then it was time to add the fish sauce. Have you ever experienced the aroma of fish sauce? It certainly was not what I was expecting, a fishy smell; to me it has the smell of dry cat food. At first I was worried about using it. I never used fish sauce before and have no idea what it was supposed to smell like or not smell like if it has gone bad. My bottle not only had an expiration date way into next year, but a manufacture date as well which was just a couple of months ago, so in it went.

I immediately went to the Q&C section on the Wok Wednesdays website and asked if anyone else thought that fish sauce had a strange odor. Happy to find out that I am not alone in that the sauce does have an odd smell. As one fellow cook mentioned it adds that indistinguishable pleasant flavor to good Chinese restaurant dishes. You know the taste that you can't quite put your finger on; the earthy, nutty flavor of that savory sauce swimming on the bottom of the plate under your entree. After cooking the offensive odor is not noticeable, nor is it fishy tasting - amazing.

I made one deviation to the recipe; I substituted cayenne pepper for the chili powder as referenced in the book. I added 1/4 teaspoon to the spice mixture. This lent a wonderful soft heat to the stir-fry.

I texted my husband who was riding after work and having dinner with friends that he was a lucky man. He was going to have one damn good lunch tomorrow. The following day he agreed.

Success meter (1-3): 3+

 As you can see from the almost empty jar
of cumin, this is my all-time favorite spice.

Mise en place.
A must when stir-frying.

Wish you could smell this..

The flavors mellowed overnight, but
was still very good the next day.

In my first post for WW I mentioned too look for Cashew Chicken this week - unforseen circumstances caused a change in the recipe schedule. Not to worry, we will share this in the future I assure you.

You too can join us on our adventure of cooking through Grace Young's book, Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. Go to Wok Wednesdays to get started!

I was chosen as host for this week so you can find the recipe by clicking on the link below.
Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken

Serves 3 as a main dish with rice
or 4 as part of multicourse meal
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thigh or breast,
   cut crosswise into ½-inch thick large slices
2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil, divided
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, divided
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small yellow onion, quartered and cut into ¼-inch chunks
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares (about 1 1/3 cups)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 Anaheim chili, cut into scant ¼-inch thick slices, with seeds (about ¼ cup)
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into scant ½-inch thick slices (about 1 ½ cups)
½ teaspoon chili powder (I substituted ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper)

1.    In a medium bowl combine the chicken, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the remaining ½ teaspoon cornstarch and 1/3 cup cold water. In another small bowl combine the paprika and cumin.
2.    Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl  in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add the onions, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 30 seconds or until the onions begin to wilt. Push the onions to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Stir-fry 30 seconds or until the chicken is almost completely opaque. Add the ginger, garlic, and the paprika mixture, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the aromatics are fragrant and the chicken is well coated in the spices.
3.    Add the red and green bell peppers, reduce the heat to medium, and stir-fry 2 minutes or until the peppers begin to soften. (Do not be alarmed if the spices stick a little to the bottom of the wok.) Add the fish sauce, chilies, zucchini, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and stir-fry 1 minute or until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Restir the cornstarch mixture, swirl it into the wok, increase the heat to high, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just done and the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove the wok from the heat and stir in the chili powder.

Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge/Grace Young


  1. I agree - the smell was fantastic. I wanted to bottle it!

    Your dish looks so much nicer than mine. I don't know how you have the ability to take photos and stir-fry at the same time, its all I can do to focus on the order of adding ingredients. You must be Wonder Woman! One question - did you use chicken breast or thigh? I got thigh because I prefer dark meat, but it was a real pain to trim all the fat & tendons. I'm thinking I'll use breast next time, I was just worried about it getting too dry.

    Thanks for hosting this week!

    1. Matt, I used skinless/boneless chicken thighs from our higher-end grocery. No trimming needed. As for the photos I used a gorilla pod and hung my camera from the cupboard -focused and ready to go! All I had to do was push the button.

  2. Hi Cathy! The fish sauce is funky, huh? Your stir-fry action shots are beautiful and like you I enjoyed the smells and flavors of this dish- definitely a keeper! When I took the first bite, I was amazed that I could make something that tasted so incredible and better than any Chinese restaurant near me!!

    1. Thanks Robin Sue! I was amazed as well that it tasted as good as it did. Will be making this again for sure.

  3. Looks delicious and your photos are fantastic. I'm glad the fish sauce turned out alright. I once bought a bottle and after smelling it, threw it out! So much for being an adventurous cook.

    1. Thank you Judy. The fish sauce did make me a bit nervous! But wow - what a tasty sauce it made.

  4. This looks great! I really don't like fish sauce though, so I'm not sure what I'd do.

    1. It was really good Sara! I did not think I would like fish sauce either - especially after smelling it. It did make for a flavorful sauce though. I was pleasantly surprised.

  5. Love your pics. I forgot to mention in my post that I left out the last bit of salt and definitely didn't feel its absence. Like Matt, I used thigh meat and found it somewhat tedious to debone and trim. I was not too obsessive about it and the result was that my chicken pieces don't look so perfect as yours - but they sure tasted good.

    1. I purchased boneless/skinless thighs from our meat market. All I had to do was slice it up. This was a great tasting stir-fry. That's what counts!

  6. Love your pictures, and the quantity of them. Great descriptive. Loved this dish. Thanks for hosting!

  7. Cathleen, I always tell my students NOT to email, text, or take cell phone calls when they're stir-frying. I guess I should add NOT to take photos but your stir-fry action shots are great. I'm so glad the photos give me a glimpse into your stir-fry experience. Thanks for hosting this week and I'm thrilled your stir-fry was such a success!

    1. Grace, Thank you for sharing your recipe! We thoroughly enjoyed this and looking forward to more delicious meals from your book. As for picture taking... I hang my camera from the cupboard so all I have to do is push the button. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.

  8. I loved your pictures! Nice job! :-)


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