Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn (粟米肉粒飯)

Here is the first recipe on my blog: it’s been a long long while but I am just not into (or good at) taking pictures of food, which seems so essential for a food blog. Yes, I’m such a lazy food blogger for not taking pictures of food, but really, why don’t we just leave that to the professional food stylists?! The dish isn’t particularly photogenic either so why don’t you just imagine pieces of tender chicken swimming in a pool of hot, creamy corn sauce (I’m not so eloquent at making things sound appetising either!). I thought about just plonking on any picture I find on the net, but even with referencing there might be copyright/plagiarism issues there, so I’ll stay on the safe side. Here’s a picture nevertheless.

This is the first dish I learnt to cook, about 5 years ago when I was 14, and my mother decided I needed to do some housework. I actually rather enjoyed cooking, even back then, not really a troublesome chore to me. I’m so glad that I was ‘forced’ to cook once every week, because now I’ve got hundreds of recipes in my collection (including many family recipes that create exemplary versions of dishes (I know, I know, everybody says their mother’s cooking is the best…), and a firm grasp of Chinese cookery.

I cooked this for 5 weeks in a row before I moved on to another dish, because it’s so simple, fool-proof and yet yields good results much like the cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong. I think I got really sick of it after that, but now the humble dish has earned a place in my repertoire. Don’t expect anything spectacular: it is just an ordinary-tasting, homey dish that would bring any HK expatriate back to hometown. N.B. The “Rating” is totally arbitrary and by no means definitive (purely a personal preference thing) with 5-star meaning a delicious meal, and 1-star indicating mediocreity. Don’t worry, I won’t post any recipes less than mediocre (i.e. failures)! The “Source” is the person I got the recipe from.

If you have bland taste buds like my mother, then you’d complain that sesame oil, garlic, shallot bulb and chilli will only overpower the natural sweetness of the corn. If you have normal taste buds and like to eat intense foods (like me), feel free to be generous in adding as much as you like. Also, use half creamed corn half corn kernels, otherwise you’ll end up with a blob of gooey cornstarch mass lacking in corny crunch (no pun intended). Adding egg will also make a nice texture change, little strings of eggy er, strings.
The hard part about the dish is to avoid overcooking the chicken. You won’t have much of a problem with thighs, but chicken breast is very easy to overcook, so don’t cook the chicken too much when you’re browning it, and don’t simmer for too long.

Last time I looked on the internet there was only one English internet site that mentioned of this dish. Maybe Cantonese people consider it to be a tired cliche (given the ubiquity of this dish, I would have thought there would be at least one fellow food blogger who would talk about it!). Oh well, I shall be the second person on the net to extol the virtues of this dish (in the English sites anyway)! I found a nice article from a Caucasian’s perspective (and a recipe much like mine. I like how he mentions the Chinglish to name to describe the dish :P).

Without further ado, I introduce to you:

Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn (粟米肉粒飯)

400g chicken breast or thigh (diced, marinated lightly)
310g can creamed corn (or half of 420g)
310g corn kernels (or half of 420g) (drained)
2-3 slices of ginger
(optional-if you want the light flavour of corn, don’t add) 2 cloves garlic, 1 large shallot bulb, 1 red chilli (deseeded)  (minced), sesame oil, 1 egg, other vegetables (eg. zucchinni, carrot, peas etc.)

Method
1.Heat oil in wok over high heat.
2.(optional) Fry optional vegetables until tender. Remove.
3.Fry ginger (and garlic and shallot bulb etc.) for a little.
4.Add chicken and stir-fry for 1-3 minutes until browned, occasionally leaving it without stirring to char a little.
5.Pour in creamed corn (scrape clean) and corn kernels. Stir-fry for another minute or until chicken is done, simmering over medium heat.
6.Make a thickening sauce of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Stir into sauce until thickened to desired consistency. Alternatively, beat 1 egg and gradually pour in a steady stream into boiling sauce while stirring slowly.
7.Serve with rice and (optional) garnish with spring onion and Knorr soy sauce.

Source: Mama
Rating: ****

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Marinating chicken for stir-fries

After months of procrastination I decided I should probably add some recipes to this so-called ‘food blog’ that I have been neglecting. 😀 What kind of a food blog doesn’t have recipes in it?!

The vast majority of what I cook are family creations or heirloom recipes from my parents’ friends. I am all for maintaining the integrity of ingredients: so you won’t see many fancy game jus or lobster mousse or other flashy dishes with a never-ending list of ingredients. Besides, it must be the trend now, with all those “4 ingredients” cookbooks around. Not that I am being a sheep, but that’s just the way I have rolled for a long while. Simple is best.

Since my family is of Chinese heritage, the cuisine they cook and have taught me is mainly Chinese. Consequently, it will be the feature cuisine in my blog. Recipes that were acquired from family members will be categorised under “Family Recipes”.  I think Asian food is, in general, tastier than Western food. They know how to harmonise flavours and texture subtly to great effect, creating a huge array of dishes with unique characters, harnessing the myriad of seasoning and ingredients that the continent was lucky to have been endowed with. Delicate yet tasty, the food is not only pleasing to the mouth, but leaves a feeling of comfort and satisfaction after you have eaten: that is the hallmark of Asian cuisine.

However, I do enjoy the occasional cultural change, often taking inspiration from other food blogs, and when I foray into the culinary art of other cultures, I aim to be authentic in doing so. Having said that, I am not one to stick to a recipe rigidly, adding a personal touch with a few tweaks here and there won’t mean a kitchen disaster, in fact they are sometimes the springboard to new inventions. So you will see a lot of “(optional)”s scattered about in my recipes; just do as your instinct guides you to, anything that takes your fancy, add or omit anything you like. Follow recipes as a guideline, not by the book.

I wanted to post a recipe on 米肉粒飯 (Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn) but then I realised all my recipes just say “marinated” with the assumption everybody knows. I thought I should start from the very beginning so that it’s all clear. So here is a ‘tutorial’ on how to marinate chicken breast or thigh for Chinese stir-fries. This is just a standard marinade for generic Chinese stir-fries, specific recipes may call for different flavourings. If using whisky, it imparts a beautiful smoky-sweet fragrance on the chicken that the usual choice of rice wine lacks.

Typical standard marinade for stir-frying chicken

For about one fillet of chicken breast or thigh: salt (not needed if using soy sauce) and white pepper, 1 cap (teaspoon) of Johnnie Walker whisky or Chinese rice wine, 1 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil,

(optional) 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp baking soda, oyster sauce, black pepper, worcestershire sauce, ginger juice, garlic, spices, herbs, honey etc.

Method

Wash, dry, trim excess fat and cut chicken into desired size/shape.

Apparently baking soda tenderises the meat if you apply it for 15 minutes, but you have to rinse it off and then add the other ingredients afterwards.

Mix pieces of cut chicken with the above ingredients in a bowl, marinate from a day in the refrigerator to 10 minutes, covered (longer means greater flavour absorption).

Marinating Chicken Breast