A great, classic Chicken Stir Fry recipe, loaded with veggies. Otherwise known as Chop Suey, this truly is like what you get at (good) Chinese restaurants. Plus, learn how to tenderise chicken the Chinese restaurant way!
If you’ve ever wondered why your stir fries aren’t quite as tasty as what you get from (good) Chinese restaurants, this is probably what’s been missing from your sauces:
It’s Chinese cooking wine. Also known as Shaoxing rice wine, Shao-hsing or Shaohsing. Even if you get every other ingredient “right” in a stir fry sauce, if you don’t use Chinese cooking wine, your stir fry will be missing that extra something-something that makes it truly taste restaurant quality.
It’s an ingredient that appears in almost every single Chinese recipe. From stir fries to noodles, soups and wontons to dumplings / potstickers ( <– COMING SOON!!!), my general advice is that if you come across a stir fry recipe in your internet travels that does not call for Chinese cooking wine, I would proceed with caution. Or if it really looks tasty and you really want to try it anyway, add a splash of Chinese cooking wine and know you’ve just improved the recipe. (*She ducks as food bloggers all over chuck rotten tomatoes at her* 😉 )
🇦🇺 AUSTRALIA. You have no excuse now. Because Chinese cooking wine is now sold at supermarkets!!! Woolworths, Coles, Harris Farms. The brand is Pandaroo, see above for photo. OK, it’s not a hardcore Chinese brand, but it’s perfectly fine and to be honest I cannot tell the difference in the end result.
I use a brand called Double Pheonix (right red bottle) which I get from Asian grocery stores which costs a whopping $2 per bottle and makes around…. oh I don’t know. Maybe 50 batches of this Chicken Stir Fry? 🙂 Bargain. Lasts for ages – years.
I know there are people who can’t get / can’t consume alcohol. And as stern as I may sound about needing Chinese cooking wine for stir fries, don’t worry. I have substitutions for you. But only for you. Those who can get their hands on Chinese cooking wine are not allowed to use the subs! 😂
So today, we’re using Chinese cooking wine to make this classic Chicken Stir Fry, otherwise known as Chop Suey. Chop Suey is just a stir fry, a slightly westernised version of a classic, basic Chinese stir fry. Because of this, there really aren’t hard and fast rules about what goes in it, but the general characteristic is that the sauce is a fairly light brown colour, there is plenty of it and it’s pretty thick so it clings to your rice or noodles.
The sauce for this Chicken Stir Fry is as simple as a stir fry sauce can get while still being really tasty. If you omit any of the ingredients, you’d notice something missing from it when you get to the part where you’re scooping up the sauce-soaked rice with a spoon (chopsticks?? What are they??).
I’ve made this with ingredients that are commonly used by Chinese restaurants for Chop Suey / Chicken Stir Fries – Asian greens, bean sprouts, carrots and mushrooms. The Asian green in this is Choy Sum which is a terrific minimal prep vegetable – just hack the end off, then hack it into 7cm / 3″ pieces. You’ll see me doing this in the video. 🙂
In this recipe, I’ve also tenderised the chicken, using a Chinese restaurant secret method of marinating in baking soda / bicarb. Have you noticed that the chicken in Chinese restaurants is incredibly soft and almost “velvety”? It’s because restaurants “velvet” the chicken (that’s the term that is used). There are a few ways to do this, but I like using the baking soda method because I find it the easiest.
Everyone who tries velveting their own chicken for the first time is amazed. “It’s just like the stir fries at Golden Century Chinese Restaurant!!”, they exclaim. Or Golden Palace or Golden Pearl or Golden Wheel or Golden Unicorn or Golden Dragon.
Ahh, Chinese restaurant names, they provide much amusement. But that’s a story for another time. – Nagi x
PS There is a lady at the dog park who regularly uses my recipes who declared my prep times to be misleading, claiming it always takes her longer than what I say. As I said to her, I cannot be held responsible for how long it takes each person to dig out the sugar from the back of the top shelf, or rummage deep into the depths of your fridge to find the required sauces. Get the ingredients on the bench, then start your timer. To this lady I say – I bet you can get this one on the table in 15 minutes!!! 😂
PPS And if you can’t, you’ve taken the stir fry too far. The veggies should be tender-crisp, not soggy and watery. So it shouldn’t be on the stove for more than 6 minutes!!! 😉
- 180 g / 6 oz chicken breast , thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp baking soda / bi-carb (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp cornflour / corn starch
- 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce (Note 3)
- 2 tsp Oyster Sauce
- 1 tbsp Chinese Cooking Wine (rice wine) (Note 4)
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
- Dash of white pepper (or black)
- 3/4 cup / 185 ml water
- 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil (or other cooking oil)
- 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
- 1/2 onion , sliced (white, brown, yellow)
- 5 - 6 stems choy sum (or other Asian greens)
- 1 medium carrot
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (shiitake is authentic, but any will do)
- 1 cup bean sprouts
Place chicken in a bowl, sprinkle over baking soda. Use your fingers to mix then set aside for 20 minutes, no longer than 30 minutes (can get too tender). Rinse well, pat excess water with paper towels, set aside.
Place cornflour and soy sauce in a bowl. Mix until lump free. Then add remaining Sauce ingredients and stir.
Trim end off choy sum. Then cut into 7cm / 3" pieces. Separate stems from leaves.
Peel carrot, cut into 3cm / 1.3" pieces. Then slice the pieces thinly (see video).
Heat oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add garlic, stir quickly, then add onion, Cook for 1 minute, moving constantly, until onion is starting to wilt.
Add chicken, cook for 1 minute until the surface changes from pink to white.
Add choy sum stems, carrot and mushrooms. Stir fry for 1 minute.
Add choy sum leaves, bean sprouts and Sauce. Stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes until the Sauce thickens to a thick syrup consistency. Vegetables should still be tender/crisp, not soggy and soft.
Remove from heat and serve immediately over rice or noodles.
1. Tenderised Chicken: This is one method that Chinese restaurants use to tenderise chicken - marinating chicken in baking soda. Breast in particular benefits from this - it makes it juicier and the texture more velvety (hence why this is called "velveting"). However, this step is optional.
2. CHARLIE is my All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce. If you haven't met him yet and you love stir fries, you are going to be best friends very soon. Find the recipe for him here, along with how to use him. To use Charlie for this recipe, replace the Sauce with 4 tablespoons of Charlie + 3/4 tsp cornflour / cornstarch + 3/4 cup water.
3. LIGHT SOY SAUCE: This is what keeps the sauce colour clear-ish. You can use ordinary all purpose soy sauce and it will pretty much look the same. If you use dark soy sauce, reduce to 1 tbsp - will still be tasty but the sauce will be super dark brown and a stronger soy flavour.
4. CHINESE COOKING WINE: An essential in stir fries, it is what makes them taste as good as what you get at Chinese restaurants. Australia: Pandaroo Chinese Wine is now sold in Coles / Woolies / Harris Farms. Otherwise, Asian Grocery Stores sell it (see in post for photo) and it is much cheaper, $2 for a large bottle that will last for ages.
Substitutions: dry sherry (yes, really), Mirin (though your sauce will be a bit sweeter) or Japanese cooking Sake. Non alcoholic: Use chicken broth instead of water in the Sauce.
5. No need to marinate the chicken for this recipe because it's sliced thinly and there's plenty of sauce!
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 2 servings. It's 2 very generous servings, with enough vegetables for a meal - you won't need a side for this. Excludes rice / noodles.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
This big furry head was just out of frame in every photo in this post…..