Recipes kindly sponsored by Flahavan’s
I suppose the reason I object to a lack of authenticity in restaurant dishes is because there’s generally no warning. At home, it’s different; I’m happy to adopt what it would be kind to call an eclectic approach to cooking, taking an element from here, a hint from there, a soupćon from God knows where. It’s my version of confusion cuisine and I don’t force it on anyone.
Johann, a much better cook than me, adapted a recipe from – I think – Yan Kit So – that utilises chicken, peanuts and certain elements that are distinctly (in my limited experience) Sichuanese. We wouldn’t serve it to Kevin Hui (of China Sichuan) but it’s bloody good.
In the spirit of trying to spread a bit of happiness, sweetness and, one hopes, light, I thought we might share it with you. It has many virtues, including cheapness because it employs chicken thighs. I can’t understand why chicken breasts are such huge sellers. It probably has something to do with a mistaken notion that they are “healthy” but, frankly, I wouldn’t thank you for an industrial chicken fillet. It’s a kind of animal tofu: no flavour, just texture, just a vehicle for flavour (if you’re lucky).
Incidentally, when we want to take the proper, no-holds- barred Sichuan approach, we rely on the great Fuchsia Dunlop. The recipe below could, perhaps, be nudged a little further in the direction of authenticity by the addition of lots of dried chillis but (a) you need to like your food incandescently spicy, and (b) you have to remember that they are not to be eaten.
The quantities given serve two ravenous people, or four peckish ones.
Chicken with Some Sichuanese Elements
For the substance of the dish:
8 chicken thighs, boned & skinned (Sprinkle the pieces of skin with a little salt, a lot of sesame seed and pop in the oven to crisp; eat them with a glass of fino sherry).
4 cloves garlic
2cm fresh ginger
2 bunches of scallions (as we and the Americans call them because of our love of Elizabethan English; the rest of the Anglophone world call them, rather misleadingly, spring onions).
2tbsp Shaoxing wine (you can use fino sherry at a pinch)
100ml chicken stock
100g roasted peanuts (if they are salted, rinse them a few times in hot water)
For the sauce:
2tbsp sesame paste (i.e. tahini)
1tbsp chilli bean sauce (the Asia Market in Dublin or Mr Bell’s in Cork is where we get it)
3tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp rice vinegar
2tsp toasted Sichuan pepper, ground
1tbsp roasted sesame oil
Cut the chicken thighs into 2cm approx pieces.
Peel and finely chop the garlic and ginger. Trim the scallions and cut them into 0.5cm slices on the diagonal. Keep these in separate piles on the chopping bord.
Mix together the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl.
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan on a medium to high heat and when hot add the garlic, stir a couple of times and add the ginger. Stir well and add the chopped scallions cook for a minute and add the sauce.
Reduce the heat and stir to combine the sauce and contents of the pan.
Add the chicken pieces and turn up to high, stirring for a couple of minutes. Just as it starts to boil add the Shaoxing wine and boil for a minute. Add the stock stir and bring to a simmer.
Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and reduce the sauce if necessary; it needs to be fairly thick so that it clings to the chicken.
Stir in the peanuts them and serve.