My last year in college was when I started taking cooking very seriously. I had to cook everyday than just something I do when I have a craving. I therefore had to move from just pastas and sandwiches to things that were a little more healthier. I felt the need to stop eating cheese and wheat and so I looked at more rice based recipes. Stir fry’s were one of the most popular things that popped up when I searched for rice based dinners. They are amazingly easy dishes which don't need a lot of elements for them to be good. They can be customized with your favorite proteins, veggies, and sauces to make them fit your palette. This means that once you have an idea of how to cook the dish, you can create your own renditions. Donal Skehan is the king of easy dinner and stir fry recipes. He uses great ingredients, appreciates complex flavors yet makes it easy enough for a novice cook to give it a shot. One of his dishes was a five spice orange chicken stir fry. He marinades and cooks the chicken in garlic, sesame oil, and a five spice mix— an asian blend of cloves, star anise, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel. Further, he stir fries a variety of veggies adds the fragrant chicken and mixes with a sauce made of soy, orange juice, and sugars. The chicken takes in the flavors of the garlic and cinnamon, while the star anise and cloves add aromatics making the chicken a great tasting and great smelling protein. On the other hand, the orange reduces the saltiness of the soy sauce and adds flavor to the sugars we add that caramelize into this thick sticky sauce coating each element equally.
On paper (and video), this recipe sounded amazing but I soon realized that I don't own any five spice or have raw spices to make my own. I also lived in the middle of nowhere Ohio and without a car, getting some spice for just this recipe would be hard (and SO much work). After perusing my pantry I found some Chai Spice that I probably brought from India. It was a blend of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and black pepper. Essentially things that on puts in a hot cup of tea in the freezing cold or in the rains. This seemed promising. I added some streaky bacon to the chicken. It imparts some fat and smokiness. The fat melts away and reduces the amount of oil we use. Instead of fresh orange juice, I used Tropicana. It’s sweeter and tastes the same every time I make it. The last adjustment I made was to reduce the amount of sugar. Donal puts a lot of sugar, to a point where I wonder if he even eats the food he makes because his physique does not match his affinity for ingredients diabetics cant eat. Reducing the sugar doesn't reduce its taste. It makes it a little less sticky but I kind of like that because then I can cover all my rice in the sauce. Un-sauced rice gives me hiccups haha!
When should you make this:
- Daily meal! It’s an amazing dinner meal that is easy to whip up
- Date night. It has just enough elements that your date would be super impressed even though you really aren't doing much
I hope you are all liking these recipes. Let me know how you made it!
2 chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cut in bitesize pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, finely minced.
1 red chili, finely sliced
2 tsp Chai Spice (or ground up cinnamon, black pepper, star anise, and cloves)
1 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
Basmati Rice, to serve
For the sauce:
1/4 cup Orange Juice (no pulp)
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp Sriracha
For the vegetables:
1 red onion, finely sliced
8 large button or cremini mushrooms
1 medium green/red/yellow pepper cut lengthwise
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
Marinade the chicken. In a bowl add chicken, garlic, sesame oil, and chai spice. Mix well, cover, and leave in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
Add orange juice, honey, soy sauce, sriracha, and rice vinegar. Mix well. Its okay if the sugar doesn't completely dissolve.
Add half the amount of veggie oil in a skillet and wait until the pan is smoking. Add the chicken. Don't move the chicken at all. Cook for about 3 minutes on one side until a nice brown color appears on the surface. Flip the chicken and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the chicken but keep the juices of the pan.
Add the veggies and flash cook them Add more oil if needed. Bring back the chicken. Make a tiny well in the middle of the pan and add the sauce. Reduce the heat and let the sauce caramelize. Two minutes would be enough. Remove from pan and serve with rice.