Why It Works
- Marinating the chicken in a mixture of wine, soy sauce, oil, and cornstarch helps it retain moisture as it cooks.
- Cooking a slice of ginger in the oil before stir-frying the remaining ingredients helps infuse the oil and layer flavors.
- Stir-frying the ingredients in batches before adding them back together at the end ensures that you get properly high heat at each step, providing superior flavor and texture.
This simple and classic stir-fry combines tender strips of lean marinated chicken breast with scallions and ginger. With a marinade that enhances the natural flavor of the chicken while helping it stay moist and juicy, this is the kind of quick and easy meal that is custom-designed to be thrown together on a busy Tuesday night.
Start by slicing your chicken breast. I like to slice it with the knife held perpendicular to the long edge of the breast, which naturally makes cuts align at a 40 to 45-degree bias to the grain. This makes for strips that are tender with a bit of pleasant chew.
The marinade contains a few key ingredients. Salt and soy sauce both tenderize meat while enhancing its flavor (the latter with glutamates—natural amino acids that enhance meatiness). Sugar balances out the saltiness and helps the meat brown faster. White pepper and a touch of Chinese rice wine add aroma, while oil helps all the flavors distribute evenly over the meat. Finally, a bit of cornstarch helps protect the meat with a layer of insulation. This will keep it tender when it hits the hot wok later on. It takes just half an hour in the fridge for the marinade to work its magic.
Sliced onions and scallions form the vegetable element of the stir-fry.
I like to incorporate ginger in two steps.
A chunk of ginger sizzled in the hot oil before your remaining ingredients are added can bring a layer of flavor to the final dish. I incorporate additional ginger in finely julienned strips, tossed in right at the very end so that they retain their sharp bite.
Opt for vegetable or peanut oil when it comes to stir-frying. They both have a high smoke point and neutral flavor. Once that initial piece of ginger has infused the oil, I discard it.
Next, the chicken goes in. To get a bit of color on it, make sure that the wok is smoking hot before adding. I start by spreading it out in a single layer, letting it sit and cook without moving for about a minute. Then I toss and stir-fry until it's nearly cooked through.
Now if I had a restaurant-quality range, I'd just add my vegetable directly to the same wok, but with a weak home burner, you get better results by cooking in batches. I transfer my chicken to a bowl while I cook the vegetables.
In go the onions and scallions, which I stir-fry until tender and lightly browned.
Finally, I return the chicken to the wok, along with the julienned ginger and some crushed garlic. Just about a minute of cooking is enough to tame their raw bite and help the flavors mingle.
Like many simple home-style stir-fries, this one is much lighter in the sauce department than you'd expect from a Chinese take-out joint. But don't worry, the marinade and the aromatics still manage to pack in all the flavor you need.
1/2 pound chicken breast, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
10 thin slices julienned ginger, plus one 1/4-inch-thick slice
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch segments
1 medium onion, sliced
3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
Steamed rice, for serving
Place sliced chicken in a large bowl and add salt, sugar, ground white pepper, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon oil, and cornstarch. Mix well and marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
After 30 minutes, take chicken out of refrigerator. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add the 1/4-inch-thick slice of ginger. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then remove and discard ginger.
Add chicken. Spread chicken out with a spatula and cook without moving until slightly browned, about 1 minute. Continue to cook while stirring regularly until nearly cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat remaining tablespoon oil in wok over high heat until smoking. Add scallions and onions. Season with salt and cook, stirring, until the onions are tender, another 2 minutes. Return chicken to wok along with julienned ginger and minced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to serving platter and serve immediately with rice.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 2 to 3|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||25%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||12%|
|Total Carbohydrate 53g||19%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||17%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 15mg||76%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|