Chengtu Chicken

It’s a good idea to always have on hand a can of bamboo shoots or water chestnuts, and a few tomatoes – then any time you find yourself with a few chicken breasts you can make this simple, but tasty, dish from Robert Delfs’ cookbook “The Good Food of Szechwan.” I do not like canned bamboo shoots (fresh ones are another matter, but I would have to drive to Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights to get them), so I use water chestnuts. Delfs explains that the original dish was made with chicken only, so substituting water chestnuts for the bamboo shoots doesn’t seem inauthentic.

1 whole chicken breast, skinned and boned, or 2 pieces skinless, boneless breast

1 T cornstarch

1 1/2 T Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1 1/2 T Chinese soy sauce

2 scallions, cut in 1″ lengths

1 cup thinly sliced water chestnuts

1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

1 T minced fresh ginger

1 T minced fresh garlic

1 T hot bean sauce (or regular bean sauce with 1/2 tsp sambal oelek


   2 T cornstarch

   1 1/2 T Chinese soy sauce

   1 tsp vinegar

   1 tsp sugar

   1/2 – 1 tsp salt

   2 tsps sesame oil

   1/2 tsp ground Szechuan pepper

   1 T ketchup (optional)

3/4 cip vegetable oil 

Slice the chicken breasts into 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ strips. Mix the 1 T cornstarch, rice wine and the 1 1/2 T soy sauce together and mix in with the chicken. Let the chicken marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Have the scallions, water chestnuts and tomato in small bowls near the stove. Combine the seasonings in another bowl.

Heat all but 3 T of the oil in a wok until almost smoking, then add the chicken and stir fry quickly until white (or in this case, due to the marinade, beige). Remove the chicken to a bowl, and pour out the oil.

Heat 3 T of the oil in the wok and add the hot bean sauce, ginger, garlic, scallion and water chestnuts and stir fry a few minutes until the garlic and ginger have become red from the bean sauce, and the mixture is fragrantly spicy smelling.  Add the chicken back and mix it in well. Stir the seasonings to mix them, then add to the wok with the tomato.  Stir just long enough to heat the tomato pieces through, and serve while hot with white rice. Voila:

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