Dave likes to say, “You don’t like Asian food.”  It’s not true and he actually knows it.  What I don’t like is food from a greasy “Chinese” take-out place.  What I don’t like are limp vegetables and high-fried protein mixed in a shiny, gelatinous sauce full of sweetness and calories I neither need nor want.  I adore the real deal anywhere and, if I’m at home,  pull out the Barbara Tropp when I need inspiration, instigation, or education. What he doesn’t say out loud is that he’s the better Asian cook; he’s just too often too busy to make dinner.  I do love to see him in the kitchen.  Yep.

Here he is helping cook a gorgeous Chinese feast last year…with friend Jim.

or here…all by his handsome lonesome in our Colorado kitchen:
 WOKMAN

Sometimes, like everyone else, I just wing it or take a basic recipe and ad lib.  Nothing ventured, no dinner. This fine, quick meal is a sort of Szechuan-Thai-Minnesotan fusion as it combines the garlic, ginger, and peppers of a Szechuan meal with the fish sauce, fresh basil, and lime of Thai food tradition, and finishes off with the northern American (Minnesotan) winter staple, walnuts. 

The walnuts were awesome in this dish; don’t skip them.

I made jasmine rice because that’s what’s in the pantry and also because I adore its nutty, fragrant presence at the table. Set the table (plain mats, small bowls for rice, cups for tea, chop sticks), brew the tea, start the rice, and make the stir fry; it should come out fairly even.  Add a little Chinese music off the internet, if you like.  Here’s a youtube I enjoyed.

This is what I do for my Asian meals–just a simpler feel. Nothing fancy.  I include silverware as well as chopsticks.

 Try this; you’ll be happy you did. If you’ve been dissatisfied with your attempts at stir fry before, use my method and see what you think.  Don’t buy any pre-made sauces and, no, you don’t need soy sauce here.  Next time, switch it around with your favorite vegetables or use tofu or pork instead of chicken….

chicken-vegetable stir fry with walnuts
 serves 4 people generously

  • 1/2 cup chopped or halved walnuts, toasted in a pan on the stove on low for 5 minutes
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
  • Fresh ground black pepper, kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon each grated fresh ginger and minced garlic
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1  – 1 1/2-inch pieces
  •  
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned (matchsticks)
  • 3/4 pound haricots verts or regular green beans cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal*
  • 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
  •  
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lime (use 1 tablespoon juice while cooking and the rest for garnish at table)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •  
  • 1/2 cup basil, julienne (sliced in thin ribbons)
  • 2 tablespoons red or green onion, minced

1.  Before making stir fry:   Set table. Make tea or pour wine.  Set aside toasted walnuts.  Make rice:  combine 1 1/2 cups dry rice with 1 3/4 cups water with two good grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook (a tiny plume of steam should be escaping) for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat. Fluff with fork.  Let sit until needed.
2.  In a medium bowl, stir together salted and peppered chicken pieces with 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce.  Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or a large, deep skillet and add the garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper.  Let cook a minute before adding chicken.  Let brown well, turn, and brown on the other side until cooked through.  Remove to a clean bowl.
3.  Add onions, cabbage, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms to the wok.  Cook, stirring, until vegetables have just begun to barely soften, about two minutes.  Remove vegetables from wok and add to the bowl with the chicken.
4.  Pour into the wok the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon lime juice, along with the cayenne, and simmer for a minute or two to reduce before adding back in the chicken and vegetables.
5.  Stir in the other tablespoon of fish sauce, let heat through; turn off heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.   If too dry, add a little more chicken broth; you want some sauce here for your rice. Sprinkle with reserved walnuts, basil, and onions.  Serve hot with rice and lime wedges.

*If you have older or thicker regular green beans, slice them lengthwise in addition to cutting into 1-inch pieces.

Cook’s Note:  If you don’t like spicy food (and this isn’t terribly spicy), leave out the crushed red pepper and try just a tiny pinch of cayenne in the sauce to give the meal a little edge.

IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE TO LOOK AT ANOTHER ASIAN MEAL ON MORE TIME:

 

or..
 
  Basil Chicken Fried Rice

 or
 Ham Fried Rice

 or
Tofu Stir Fry

 Sing a new song,
Alyce