Sichuan chicken with peanuts

I like Chinese food. On occasion. Maybe once a year. Or every two years. You see, I’m not quite sure a lot of Chinese restaurants really do Chinese food justice. Sometimes I regret eating it afterwards. It can be too sweet, too sticky, too gloopy and too stodgy. The better restaurants will do more justice. They prepare food from very fresh ingredients and seem to make it more fragrant and lighter on its feet.

This week, my wee brother (he’s actually bigger than me) @curiousdavide, did exactly that and cooked a fantastic chinese meal that had balance. It was certainly one of the best I’d ever had, if not the best. It might be worth heading to an Asian store before you get stuck into this. Like any cuisine, once you’ve acquired some of the basics, you should get good use out of them and most items will keep well.

Sichuan chicken with peanuts (serves 4)

4 high welfare/free range chicken breasts
6 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
(equivalent measure in ginger, thinly sliced)
6 spring onions, sliced (approx 1.5cm)
4 tbsp groundnut oil (or olive oil)
4 dried chillies, crushed (or as much as you want)
2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper (or ordinary pepper)
150g roasted peanuts (or cashew nuts)

For the marinade
1 tsp salt
4 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
3 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp water

For the sauce
1 and a half tsp cornflour
2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
6 tsp black Chinese vinegar (or balsamic)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp water

Cut the chicken breasts into small cubes, place in a bowl and mix well with the marinade ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the sauce ingredients – have a sneaky taste – gorgeous!

Add 4 tbsp of the groundnut oil to a wok on a high heat and add the chillies and pepper until fragrant, but don’t burn them. Add the chicken cubes and cook until white before adding the ginger, garlic and spring onions.

When the chicken is cooked through, add the sauce until it becomes thick and then add the peanuts. Serve with steamed rice, or you could be a bit different like us and enjoy with seasoned quinoa livened up with a good grating of lemon zest.

The wine match

Chinese food goes quite well with Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer. I would go for a drier style for this dish because it’s not as sweet as a lot of the take-away Chinese food. The dry Paarl Heights Chenin Blanc is great everyday drinking wine for this kind of food. A richer style of Pinot Grigio would also not look out of place – try Ant Moore’s Pinot Gris. The small amount of residual sugar in this wine will do no harm.

If you prefer red, Pinotage will go well, even if you decide to spice it up with a few more chillies. Pinotage can handle some spice and quite complex flavours, so check out the Long Neck Pinotage. There are two Californian Pinot Noir’s, which recently landed with us and I think they would also work. Crane Lake Pinot Noir and Fat Cat Pinot Noir. Meeeeow!

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