Monday, November 15, 2010

186. General Chin's Chicken, Hunan Region

Sometimes even I rebel at having to eat one more familiar meal. This lack of interest in food usually causes me to dig a little deeper in my files and either find something new or revisit an old-but-forgotten recipe. Such a search might lead me to the flavors of the far east or, specifically, China. These recipes usually have layers of tantalizing ingredients; combine them with satisfying noodles or steaming bowls of rice and it is usually just what I need to whet my stale appetite.

One old-but-forgotten recipe that resurfaced on such a hunt was General Chin's Chicken which I had learned how to make in a Chinese cooking class. This particular dish is fairly well-known and comes from the Hunan region of area that provides a large variety of food choices for its people; the recipes are inventive and delicious.

Many of the Hunan dishes contain hot peppers that, according to some sources, helped the people remove the dampness from their bodies. However, where Szechuan recipes usually add chili bean paste for the heat in their dishes, Hunan recipes are made with fresh or dried chili peppers, including the seeds and membranes which add a lot of heat.

If this recipe looks like it has more than the usual steps in cooking it is because in the Hunan region, cooks spend a lot more time in the preparation and appearance of their dishes compared to other regional cooks. Don't let the list of ingredients and steps scare you off...this recipe is well worth the effort.

General Chin’s Chicken

12 oz chicken breast, boneless

1 tsp cornstarch
1 T soy sauce

3 – 5 dried red chili pods
1 green onion, white part only
½ tsp minced ginger (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small stalks celery
8 water chestnuts
3 T oil

1 T soy sauce
1 T dry sherry
1 T rice vinegar
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 T cornstarch paste (cornstarch in water)
2 tsp sesame oil

Hot rice or noodles


1. Pound chicken slightly to tenderize; cut into narrow strips. Mix chicken with marinade
    ingredients and set aside for half an hour.

2. Break chili pods in half and (discard seeds from pods if you don't want it to be so hot)

3. Chop green onion, white part, ginger and garlic

4. Trim celery and cut stalk vertically in half; then into ½ inch pieces

5. Slice each water chestnut into 3 equal portions

6. Mix sauce ingredients together and set aside


Set wok or fry pan over high heat and add 3 T oil, swirling pan to coat sides. Add chili pods and stir-fry for 20 seconds until browned. Add green onion, ginger, garlic and then chicken; cook for 2 minutes. Add celery, chestnuts and sauce. Stir fry for 1 min. until thickened. Serve hot over rice or noodles.

If you don’t want this dish to be so hot, use less chili pods.

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