I recently had a craving for the awesome “Chinese food” my mom made our family when I was growing up. The night mom made this was not just another night; it was an occasion.
She had a very specific recipe that she developed. She used an old blue Chinese cookbook and pulled from several recipes and from convenience foods in the grocery store to put together this meal which we didn’t have a specific name for; it wasn’t chicken lo-mein or egg foo young. It was just Chinese food. And it was good!
Here’s what she did:
She made a nice big batch of fried rice from the blue cookbook. It was awesome. She cut up a round steak into 3-4 inch-long strips and coated the pieces in corn starch. She then fried them in a little canola oil in her electric wok and set it aside.
Next, she’d open a big can of La Choy Chinese vegetables and a can of water chestnuts. She’d have us all help her chop fresh vegetables: button mushrooms, green onions, cabbage. She’d saute them and then add the canned veggies to it, followed by the meat. She’d cook this mixture together for awhile, flavoring it with soy sauce, and then finally, we’d eat.
She’d serve us a plate with fried rice, topped with the vegetables and beef, and then…chow mein noodles. Crispy, light perfection on top. Sometimes she’d add an eggroll on the side, but we never had fortune cookies. They were a waste, she said. Not filling and not that tasty.
Well, since my sweet mama is no longer with us, I had to make my own Chinese food when the craving hit. I wanted to simplify the process, though, as I work full time and drive 45 minutes to and from work, so time is short. One way to speed things up, I decided, was to use pre-chopped fresh vegetables from the produce department in the grocery store.
Here’s what I did.
I made mom’s fried rice first. I considered making a pot of brown rice in the interest of time, but wanted the taste of mom’s fried rice, so I made it.
Cook 1 1/2 cups white rice according to package directions.
Beat two large eggs in a small bowl.
Place 2-3 TBS oil in a wok or large skillet. When it’s hot, add the cooked rice. Drizzle with two teaspoons of reduced sodium (if possible) soy sauce. Saute the rice in the oil, mixing the soy sauce in. Add more to taste, being careful not to oversalt.
Make a well in the middle of the rice, and add to the well 2 beaten eggs. Allow the eggs to heat there in the well for a minute, then begin mixing it into the rice until well-distributed. Fry the rice for several more minutes, tasting as you go.
Set aside and cover.
Quick chicken stir-fry
3-4 flattened boneless chicken breasts
1 TBS cornstarch
8 oz. package baby Bella mushrooms
small package pre-shredded carrots, rinsed and drained
small package pre-shredded cabbage, rinsed and drained
2-3 stalks celery, thinly sliced (pre-chopped, if available)
one package green onions, thinly sliced (don’t use the top half of the green part; it’s tough))
Small can of water chestnuts
Chow mein noodles, optional (buy why wouldn’t you?)
As with most stovetop recipes, you can customize this recipe to suit your own tastes. You can use steak, as my mom did, or omit the meat and use more vegetables for a vegetarian version. It’s up to you!
Chop the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl and add the cornstarch, mixing to coat all the pieces.
Stir-fry the chicken in 2 TBS oil for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently and adding about 1 tsp soy sauce for flavor. Set aside.
Heat 2 TBS oil in wok or pan.
When heated, add celery and onions; saute for 2 minutes until celery is softened, stirring frequently.
Add cabbage and carrots, and saute 2 more minutes.
Add water chestnuts and mushrooms, and saute all until the mushrooms are reduced and darkened.
Season the mixture with the soy sauce until you achieve desired level of saltiness and flavor. Add the chicken, and gently stir in.
Place some rice in a large bowl, such as a soup bowl.
Top with a generous serving of the stir-fried chicken and vegetables. Garnish with chow mein noodles as an homage to my mother. You’ll be glad you did!
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Hill-Frazier. All rights reserved.