Last week I finished my third year of Mandarin, a challenging but rewarding journey!   To celebrate, I prepared a Chinese recipe for our dinner.   Cookbooks and websites sometimes mistreat ethnic cuisines: too often it’s  enough to finish a stir-fry with some soy sauce, cornstarch and then label it Chinese.   For the alternate, informed approach I reached for  Barbara Tropp, who was to Chinese cooking what Julia Child was to French cuisine: she studied it to the point of becoming an expert, and shared her knowledge through excellent writing.    Barbara Tropp’s “Modern Art of Chinese Cooking”  is a culinary masterpiece like no other on the subject, and if you have genuine interest in learning to prepare authentic Chinese dishes, you’ll need this book.

Here is what Tropp said about the recipe I chose:

Subtly sweet and rich, with a classic contrast of velvety chicken, slippery-crisp vegetables and crunchy nuts, it combines every technique you need to know to produce elegant, restaurant-style stir-frys. The taste explosion that makes this dish so appealing is a multi-regional affair.  Hoisin is a predominantly north Chinese condiment, chili is a Szechwanese touch, while wine used as it is here is an Eastern taste.”

I love it when a cookbook writer goes beyond providing recipes.  I am still saddened by her unfortunate death  when she was only 53 years old.

(adapted from Barbara Tropp)

1 pound chicken breast, cut in bite size pieces
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tsp Kosher salt
4 cups water + 2 tsp peanut oil

1/2 cup whole blanched almonds or cashews
1 medium red bell pepper
6 ounces bamboo shoots, sliced
fresh cilantro leaves

2 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon finely minced green onions
1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes

Liquid seasoning
3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 + 1/2 Tbs Chinese rice wine
2 tsp soy sauce

Mix the egg white, wine and salt and process until smooth and thick (30 to 60 seconds) in a food processor or blender.  Place the chicken in a bowl and add the egg white marinade over it, tossing well to completely coat the pieces. Refrigerate from 8 to 36 hours, the longer the better.

Toast the nuts in a 350F oven, or by gently frying them with a little bit of peanut oil on a non-stick skillet.  Do not allow them to burn. Reserve.

Cut the seeded red bell pepper into squares.  If using canned bamboo shoots, rinse them well and blanch for 10 seconds in boiling water – this will refresh their taste.  Cut in thin slices. The veggies and nuts can be prepared one day in advance. Mince the cilantro right before finishing the dish.

Combine all aromatics and mix well in a small bowl.  Mix all the liquid seasonings in another small bowl.  Reserve both.

Velveting the chicken:
Bring the water/oil to a simmer, do not allow it to go into full boil.  You want to see small bubbles forming around the rim of the water.  Stir the chicken to loosen the pieces slightly, and drop them in the water, stirring to separate them.   Simmer until they are about 80% cooked  – this should take about 20 seconds.  It’s important not to over cook the meat.  When in doubt, cook less.   Remove the pieces  to a plate with a slotted spoon.   Once velveted, the meat must be stir-fried right away.

Finishing the dish…
Heat a wok over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact.  Add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl it to glaze the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle one piece of bell pepper, add the peppers and the bamboo shoots to the pan, stir frying them briskly until they are evenly glossed with oil and heated through, about 1 minute.  Remove the vegetables to a dish.  Return the wok to the stove, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the aromatics, stir until fragrant, 15-20 seconds, add the liquid seasonings, and stir to combine.  Add the velveted chicken pieces and the vegetables, toss quickly to cook through, about 30 seconds.   Turn off the heat, add the nuts and the cilantro.   Adjust the seasoning and serve over white rice.


(receita em portugues na proxima pagina)

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This recipe calls for an important step in the meat preparation for stir-frying: “velveting.”   Tempting as it might be to skip it, don’t do it: the improvement in the texture will shock you! You’ll use an extra pan and spend a few more minutes in the overall preparation, but it is a small price to pay for textural perfection.  Barbara Tropp’s recipes are quite detailed, often extending over several pages, which some people may find a bit excessive.   I have a small dry-erase board on which I write down a condensed version of the recipe to take to the kitchen.  Interestingly enough, I originally got the board to practice writing Chinese characters, so using it for Chinese cooking seems like a natural move… 😉

I’ve made this recipe with water chestnuts instead of bamboo shoots, snow peas in addition to bell peppers, and peanuts instead of cashews. You can adapt it to what you have available, as long as you preserve the basic techniques. Like all stir fry recipes, once the ingredients are prepared, the cooking happens at lightening speed,  which is music to my ears on busy weekdays…

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(adaptado de Barbara Tropp)

500g de peito de frango, corte em pedaços
1 clara de ovo
1 colher de sopa de vinho branco chinês (shaoxing)
1 colher de chá de sal
4 xícaras de água + 2 colher de chá de óleo de amendoim

1 / 2 xícara de amêndoas descascadas ou castanha de caju
1 pimentão vermelho médio
3/4 xicara de brotos de bambu, cortado em tirinhas
folhas de cilantro

2 colher de chá de alho picado
1 colher de sopa de gengibre picado
1 colher de cebolinha verde picada
1 / 4 colher de chá de pimenta vermelha em flocos

Liquido aromatico
3 colheres de molho tipo hoisin
1 + 1 / 2 colheres de sopa de vinho branco chinês (shaoxing)
2 colher de chá de molho de soja

Misture o ovo, o vinho e o sal e processe até ficar liso e grosso (30 a 60 segundos) em um processador de alimentos ou liquidificador. Coloque o frango em uma tigela e adicione essa mistura por cima, misturando bem para incorporar aos pedacos de frango. Leve à geladeira por 8 a 36 horas.

Asse as amendoas em um forno quente, ou frite suavemente em um pouco de óleo de amendoim numa frigideira antiaderente. Não deixe que queimem. Reserve.

Corte o pimentão vermelho sem sementes em quadrados. Se estiver usando brotos de bambu em conserva, lave bem e escalde por 10 segundos em água fervente – o que irá melhorar muito o sabor. Corte em fatias finas. Toda essa preparacao pode ser feita com um dia de antecedência. Pique o cilantro apenas no momento de finalizar a receita.
Combine todos os temperos e misture bem em uma tigela pequena. Misture os líquidos aromaticos em outra tigela pequena. Reserve ambos.

Preparacao do frango:
Leve a água / óleo para ferver, mas não deixe que chegue a entrar em plena ebulição. Misture o frango para soltar os pedaços um pouco, e coloque na panela, mexendo para separá-los. Cozinhe delicadamente até que os pedacos cheguem a mais ou menos 3/4 do cozimento completo – isso deve levar cerca de 20 segundos. Retire os pedaços com uma escumadeira, e reserve. Depois dessa preparacao, a carne deve ser usada imediatamente como segue:

Finalizando o prato …
Aqueça um “wok” em fogo alto até quente o suficiente para evaporar uma gota de água ao contato. Adicione 2 colheres de sopa de óleo e espalhe pela superficie toda da panela. Quando o óleo estiver quente o suficiente para chiar um pedaço de pimentão, adicione os pimentões e os brotos de bambu, fritando e mexendo vigorosamente por aproximadamente 1 minuto. Retire os legumes para um prato. Retorne a panela ao fogo, acrescente a colher restante de óleo e adicione os temperos, mexa bem por 15-20 segundos, adicione o liquido aromatico, e continue misturando bem por alguns segundos. Finalmente, adicione os pedaços de frango e os legumes, misture rapidamente para cozinhar por aproximadamente 30 segundos. Desligue o fogo, acrescente as amendoas e o cilantro. Ajuste o tempero e sirva com arroz branco.

18 thoughts on “HOISIN EXPLOSION

  1. Pingback: Wine Glaze » HOISIN EXPLOSION « Bewitching Kitchen

  2. Velveting chicken is so amazing: a really good technique to know! There is a Japanese recipe I make all the time similar to this. With cashews, what is not to like? Velveting seems to keep the chix breast from getting dry too, don’t you think!


  3. Never heard of this technique and will definitely try it and this recipe! Congratulations on finishing your third year of Mandarin! I want to ask you lots of questions, like why are you learning Mandarin and how many languages do you speak and… how come I’ve never heard of all these interesting cooks? Please tell me more 🙂


    • Thanks, Joanna! I only speak Portuguese, English and French. My Chinese is rudimentary still, I like to think I could get by in Beijing if I had to… but who knows? It’s a tricky language to speak, because it is tonal

      (check your email… 😉


  4. Oh dear, we are at the same path here. I have made something Chinese this week, will post about it on Monday. This is truly wonderful, and delicious dish.


  5. This sounds wonderful. Velveting chicken was a technique I picked up in Cleveland Heights from a man who owned a Chinese bookstore. I haven’t done it in ages, but it sounds like this one might be the one. My Chinese cookbook is written in Chinese and English!


    • How cool, a cookbook in both languages!

      I imagine it is probably written with traditional characters, though, which are still in use in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I am learning the simplified version, adopted in the whole mainland since the mid 50’s.


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  7. Pingback: TAKING A BREAK FROM THE NANO-KITCHEN | Bewitching Kitchen

  8. My copy of Barbara Tropp’s book no longer has a cover and most pages
    have smatterings of sauce. Her descriptions made you want to try harder to use techniques that you were not used to. My adult kids can’t eat Chinese at a restaurant without saying its not as good as mine! Thank you Barbara for many many years of fine noshing.


    • Jane, what a nice comment, I feel that Barbara left us way too early, and like you, read her book like a novel, over and over and over again. I love her little stories of her struggles with the Mandarin language, that she used to stick in some of the prefaces of recipes. Such a loss to the culinary world!


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