A wok is commonly used to prepare Chinese foods. Due to its large size, high sloping sides and ability to handle high temperatures, a wok is an ideal tool for stir-frying, deep-frying, braising, roasting, steaming and simmering. Oil that may be heated to a high temperature without smoking is essential; peanut oil and corn oil both work well.
Hoisin sauce, also known as Chinese barbecue sauce, is salty, sweet and spicy. Hoisin can easily be found in most grocery stores, but if unavailable, a mixture of equal parts molasses and ketchup may be substituted.
Sesame seeds are typically used as a garnish. White sesame seeds have a strong nutty flavor that’s enhanced when toasted. Black sesame seeds are less flavorful and are used mainly for color.
Chinese rice vinegar, typically milder and less acidic than regular vinegar, is used in dipping sauces, soups and noodle dishes.. The most common, white rice vinegar, is similar in flavor to regular vinegar. Red vinegar is sweet and tart, while black rice vinegar is similar to balsamic vinegar.
The following Kung Pao style noodles are a perfect way to celebrate the occasion – and use several of those classic Chinese ingredients. This recipe comes together quickly, making it a perfect alternative to take-out.
Kung Pao style noodles
Prep Time – 15 minutes; cook time – 15 minutes.
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3), cubed
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 3-ounce packages ramen noodles (discard seasoning packets)
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 green onions, sliced thin (optional, for serving)
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat two tablespoons of the canola oil over medium to medium-high heat until it’s hot and rippling. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Add the cubed chicken to the pan in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned and cooked through, five to seven minutes. Remove the chicken to a medium bowl.
Add the last tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until hot and rippling. Add the red bell pepper, peanuts, peas and carrots and cook until softened, two to three minutes. Remove the mixture into the bowl with the chicken, leaving behind in the skillet as much oil as possible.
Add the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds to the remaining oil in the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds to one minute. Stir in the chicken broth. Break the bricks of ramen into small chunks and add them to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, tossing the ramen constantly with tongs to separate, until it’s tender but there’s still a bit of liquid in the pan, about two to four minutes.
Stir in the hoisin sauce, vinegar and soy sauce and continue to simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about one minute. Stir in the chicken, vegetables and peanuts. Sprinkle with green onions before serving. Serves four to five.
Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family-friendly meals since she was 9 in her mother’s kitchen. She’s an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for the meal planning site www.foodonthetable.com.