Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chickety China, the Chinese Chicken...

I forgot my lunch last Thursday. I also walked to work that day, meaning that my usual options (Thames River Greenery, Muddy Waters, a sushi roll from Singapore Grill) were out of the question (even though I could technically walk to several of these places, I could not walk there, order lunch, and walk back in the time allotted to my lunch period). This left me with one option: the Chinese restaurant across from the Shell Station.

I ordered wanton soup. That's all. But as I sat at my desk eating it, I kind of started craving the sticky, fried, MSG-laden gloriousness of the typical Chinese restaurant lunch special. However, I didn't want to go out for dinner or get take-out that night. I had plenty of food at home. So instead, I did some googling and by the end of the day had decided to make sesame chicken for dinner.

Noe was skeptical, to say the least. He was pretty sure the dish would have good flavor, but was not convinced it would have the right texture or stickiness quotient.

Our worries were completely misplaced. The dish tasted EXACTLY like sesame chicken from a take-out Chinese restaurant - so much so, in fact, that I was almost disappointed (shouldn't there be some kind of discernible difference?) The texture - achieved by battering and deep-frying the cubed pieces of chicken and draining them before tossing them in a thick, sticky sauce - was spot-on as well.

 The finished product, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds
and served with white rice (courtesy of Noe)

Seeing how much sugar/cornstarch/etc went into the homemade version of this dish kind of made me cringe - and made me keenly aware of how much must be in the real take-out version. The unexpected bonus of this awareness is that I ate a much smaller portion than I probably would have out of a take-out container because I DID see exactly how much crap was in it.

One minor caveat - although the flavor was still fantastic the next day, the homemade version of sesame chicken was a little soggy after spending the night in the fridge. Not terribly so, but more so than typical take-out.

You can find the basic recipe I used at (as usual, I made some minor tweaks). If I make this again, I will add extra vinegar and chili paste (I had added extra chili paste and garlic but it still came out just a touch too sweet, in my book - Noe thought it was fine) and  cut a little's a work in progress.

One other note - I do not have a deep fryer. I fried this in a deep saucepan and it worked fine. Just make sure you test the oil with one piece of chicken to make sure it as at a good temperature, don't crowd the chicken in the pan, and watch it carefully to see when it turns the appropriate golden color. I would test a few pieces and cut into them so you get an idea of how long, time-wise, you want to leave them in the pan.

Do you ever make your own take-out?

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