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Szechwan Chicken

The Szechwan region is recognized for its spicy hot dishes; but more so for its unique and hearty flavors.

If you are in search of Chinese dishes with heavy flavoring, start with a collection of Szechwan - or Sichuan - recipes. Szechwan cooking also incorporates heat, but the temperature can always be adjusted up or down according to taste.

Texture and color are important in Chinese cooking and regional cooks are experts at adding complex flavors and setting them up so that each stands alone on the taste buds.

Our Szechwan Chicken dish can be prepared as a vegetarian meal as well. Look for the freshest vegetables and cook them only long enough to be heated through, but still crisp. Canned vegetables are acceptable, but add them toward the end of the cooking time.

You can mix and match any of the vegetables. Add fresh mushrooms - which are abundant in Szechwan dishes, or include cabbage if you are foregoing rice (for low-carb dishes).

Szechwan Chicken
Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinned

½ bell pepper, julienned into 2-inch strips
4 green onions, cut into ½ inches pieces
1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed thoroughly
1 can bamboo shoots
½ can water chestnuts
2 carrots, cut into thin slices on the bias
2 teaspoons fresh gingerroot
1 Jalapeno, julienned and cut into 1-inch strips (optional)
2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes (optional and as a substitute for jalapeno)
Soy sauce as needed

1 Tablespoon cooking oil

Thickening sauce (can be made ahead of time):

4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine (or cooking white)
3 Tablespoons water
3 teaspoons cornstarch

Freeze the chicken before slicing as it will be easier to slice into bite-sized strips. After slicing, allow to thaw and cover with soy and a touch of Worcestershire (about a 3/1 ratio). Allow to marinate at least 2 hours.

Heat wok and add chicken. Toss in hot wok about 3 minutes or until done. Set aside.

Add vegetable oil and start cooking vegetables. Begin with bell pepper, onions, jalapeno, carrots, and celery. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add the cooked chicken. Add pepper flakes and gingerroot. Continue cooking for another minute before adding bean sprouts and water chestnuts and bamboo shoots (and/or mushrooms or softer foods).

If food begins sticking, add small amount of vegetable oil and soy sauce.

Push everything to the perimeter of the wok and add the thickening sauce in the bottom of the wok. Let it begin to bubble and begin tossing food in the thickened sauce.

When everything is well-coated, turn out into a large bowl. Serve with rice.

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