This is a Ken Hom recipe which I have adapted and every time I cook it, I get compliments from our guests. The original version does not use chilli, so you can leave it out if you want to, but I think it adds a nice dimension. The chunks of chicken in my picture are quite large but if you are feeding a lot of people, make smaller chunks so that it cooks more quickly and evenly.
If you want to serve it with special fried rice as in the picture, make sure that you have some cold cooked rice available. This is then fried in a wok in a little oil with onion, frozen peas and egg approx 4-5 minutes before serving the chicken. Fry the onion first so that it is soft, add the peas so that they thaw, then either add a pre-cooked one egg omelette that has been chopped into small pieces, or cook a raw egg in the oil and break it up with the spatula before adding the rice. Toss the rice around in the wok to distribute the onion, egg and peas, and keep going until it is heated through.
There is some prep to do at least 30 minutes before cooking – make sure you take the dried mushrooms, put them in a bowl or jug, and cover them with boiling water to give them time to reconstitute. You don’t have to use dried mushrooms, but if you do, you get a real depth of flavour and you can use the mushroom water to make the stock.
For the Chicken, ginger and mushroom you need (serves 2-4 people):
Chicken – thighs are more juicy, but you can use breast if you prefer, 100-200g per person should be plenty. This should be filleted and cut into 1 inch chunks.
Chicken marinade – this is enough for 2-4 servings:
Light soy sauce – 2 teaspoons
Shaoxing rice wine (or sherry) – 1 tablespoon
Sesame oil – 1 teaspoon
Cornflour – 2 teaspoons
Black pepper – approx half a teaspoon
Dried mushrooms – 25g – make sure these are soaked at least 30 mins ahead of cooking.
Fresh mushrooms (get a nice exotic mixture if you can – shiitake, cloud ears, brown) – 25g
Chilli – 1 small chilli of any variety – regular (or jalapeno if you are a chilli fan)
Ginger – must be fresh – 3 tablespoons peeled and cut into shreds
Garlic – 2 tablespoons peeled and chopped
Shallots or red onion – approx 4 tablespoons finely sliced – this equates to about half a red onion
Fish sauce – 1 tablespoon
Oyster sauce – 1 tablespoon
Sugar – 2 teaspoons
Chicken stock – 150mls – you can buy this ready made or make it up with the mushroom soaking water and a heaped teaspoon of good quality chicken stock powder
Groundnut oil – for cooking – probably a few tablespoons, I always guess mine
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh coriander and spring onion for a garnish – if you have some handy – this is optional
Things to do 30 minutes before cooking:
1. Soak the dried mushrooms in water that you have just boiled in the kettle. They should be soft after about 30 minutes – leave them longer if not. Save the soaking water to make the stock (but remove any leftover bits from it by straining through a tea strainer). Remove the stalks and discard them, slice the mushrooms and set aside.
2. If you haven’t got stock already made up, make up 150ml of chicken or vegetable stock by either a) using a stock cube or b) a heaped teaspoon of good stock powder with 150 – 200 mls of the mushroom water. Simmer in a little pan to dissolve all of the cube or powder and set aside. Bear in mind that some will evaporate so use more than 150mls of water and top it up if necessary. Alternatively you can use good quality store bought stock or bone broth in a carton – try to get the reduced salt variety.
3. Marinate the chicken in 2 teaspoons of light soy, 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and some salt and pepper. Ken Hom says to use one and half teaspoons of salt, but I leave the salt out because the soy is quite salty. I do add about half a teaspoon of pepper though. Once the liquid marinade is mixed through, add about 2 teaspoons of cornflour and mix again – this will make the coating thicker and cling to the chicken, give it a good mix so that it isn’t lumpy.
4. Prep all the ingredients – peel and finely slice the ginger, garlic and shallots, slice the mushrooms. Slice the chilli and remove the seeds if you don’t like your food too spicy.
Cooking the chicken for the first time (this can be done in advance if you are prepping this for a busy dinner party):
1. This first cooking gives the chicken the flavour of the ginger and chilli and also makes the ginger and chilli lovely and crispy to add another nice texture to the dish.
2. Put approx 2-3 tablespoons of groundnut oil in a pan or wok and heat it until it is just smoking.
3. Add the chilli and ginger and fry for a minute until crispy.
4. Add the chicken and fry for another 4-5 minutes until almost cooked. The time will depend on how big the chunks are – if in doubt slice a piece to see if it is almost cooked through – if it is too pink, leave longer.
5. Drain the chicken and reserve approx 1 tablespoon of the oil. Keep all of the crispy chilli and ginger pieces. If you are clever in the way that you do this, you shouldn’t have to clean the pan.
Putting it all together:
1. Reheat the wok or pan with the remaining tablespoon of oil (don’t worry if you lost it all, just add another tablespoon of fresh oil).
2. Add the shallots and garlic and fry for a minute to soften.
3. Add the mushrooms (dried and fresh), and continue to stir fry and soften.
4. Add the fish sauce, oyster sauce, stock and sugar. Return the chicken to the pan.
5. Leave to simmer for 3-5 minutes to make sure that the chicken is cooked through.
6. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to adjust seasoning if necessary.
7. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh coriander and sliced spring onions.