January 31, 2014 marked the start of the Chinese Year of the Horse. To celebrate, I prepared a variety of Chinese-inspired dishes. Inspired by one of my small Chinese Favorites cooking magazine, I decided to try my take on Szechuan Chicken Tenders.
Szechuan food is typically spicy, and as Wikipedia tells us:
The Sichuanese are proud of their cuisine, known as one of the Four Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine. The cuisine here is of “one dish, one shape, hundreds of dishes, hundreds of tastes,” as the saying goes, to describe its acclaimed diversity. The most prominent traits of Sichuanese cuisine are described by four words: spicy, hot, fresh and fragrant.
To be more authentic — and if you really like heat — you’ll want to add some Szechuan peppers to this dish. I don’t have ready access to Szechuan peppers, so I made mine without. However, I have recently learned that there is an Asian food market in Tyler, so I may venture there some time to see if they carry Szechuan peppers.
A friend was at our home for lunch on Chinese New Year’s, helping my husband with a home renovation project, and he was intrigued by and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of foods I served for our festive holiday luncheon:
- Crab Rangoon – https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/hows-about-a-hiss-hello/
- Hot and Sour Soup (from a good quality mix)
- Chicken and Vegetable Pot stickers (a good quality frozen brand)
- Szechuan Chicken (recipe below)
- Vegetable Egg Rolls (purchased from a store)
- Green Tea
This dish is easy to prepare, you just need to allow your chicken time to marinate (I suggest overnight, but not more than 24 hours). This is so yummy, you’ll find yourself wishing you could hang Asian-style lanterns and celebrate in style!
Szechuan-Style Chicken Tenders (Serves 6 to 8 as a main; more as an appetizer; easy enough to scale up or down)
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce (I used reduced sodium soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy (I used Courvoisier)
- Minced garlic to taste (a teaspoon or two)
- Red pepper flakes to taste (I eyeballed it, I probably had a teaspoon or so)
- Szechuan peppers (optional)
- Sesame oil (preferred) or canola oil (tablespoon or two for cooking chicken)
- 2 pounds chicken tenders (or cut boneless, skinless chicken breast into strips)
- In a gallon-sized plastic storage bag or non-reactive (glass or stainless) container, mix together the soy sauce, chili sauce, cognac or brandy, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add in chicken. Marinate in refrigerator, stirring occasionally, for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Do not marinate for more than 24 hours.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator about 30 to 45 minutes before cooking. (Meat that has lost its chill from the ‘fridge will brown better.)
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, preferably only turning once, until cooked through (anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes total, depending upon size and thickness of chicken strips).
- Optional: For added heat, heat some Szechuan peppers and toss with the cooked chicken. Peppers may be heated by baking them in the oven or over a low flame in a skillet for a few minutes.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
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