There are all kinds of interpretations of this dish. When I fry chicken with ingredients like soy sauce and rice I refer to it as some version of Chinese chicken stir-fry? I have never been to China and only learned about what goes into the food through cookbooks and visits to places like Chinatown in NYC. Like most Westerners, I suppose I have a general idea of what the food should taste like, but if I were standing at a stall in a market in China I would be confused and mesmerized.
I grew up eating food that couldn’t have been more different from the food cooked in China or by Chinese people in other countries. For example, I never added sugar to a savory dish (besides a little to tomato sauces) until I started experimenting with recipes in cookbooks. I thought sugar was for baking! Which leads me to why I wanted to cook a stir-Fry tonight in the first place….I read about Chinese rock Sugar and how it is used to enhance the flavor of various sauces. I of course wanted to try it, instead of using brown sugar and white sugar? I had to mail order it.
It turned out to be plain old rock candy or rock sugar but I thought it was special because it came in an odd plastic bag from a factory in Hong Kong! It is made from sugar, molasses and water. I used it in my sauce tonight and felt very authentic when I casually tossed a lump or two of Rock Sugar into my pan and watched it dissolve. I thought this was a great dish. It did not have many ingredients but the combination of soy, mirin, ginger, cinnamon and rock sugar gave it lovely flavor with a mild cinnamon-y sweetness.
You will need: 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (chopped), 6 scallions, 1 1/2 tbs grated ginger, 1/2 cup mirin (Chinese rice wine), 1 small onion, 6 garlic cloves, 8 oz white mushrooms, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 tbs cornstarch (cornflour), 1 1/2 tbs Chinese Rock sugar ( I wasn’t able to crush it so I just took a couple of lumps that I thought made up the amount?), 3 tbs peanut oil. 2 1/2 cups raw basmati rice (or 3 cups of rice from your rice-cooker measure), Raw Thai chillies (optional for garnish -I wanted this dish to be kid-friendly so did not add to dish chopped at the same time as the onions – but feel free to do so if everyone likes heat)
In a big bowl combine the grated ginger, mirin and sliced scallions and add chopped chicken. Mix everything together and let it sit on your counter-top while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Dice onion, slice mushrooms thinly and finely chop garlic. Put rice on to cook either on the stove-top or rice-cooker.
Put a big pan on medium/high heat on stove-top and add oil. When the oil is very hot add the onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and turn heat up to high. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes before adding the chicken to the pan. Stir the chicken into the vegetables and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and cook for another minute before adding the water.
Let everything come to a simmer, turn down the heat to low, cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Take lid off and add the rock sugar and stir to dissolve. Mix a little water with the corn starch and mix into a paste. Add to the chicken mixture and let cook for another minute or two until the cornstarch cooks into the dish. If using the chillies fry in a little saute pan with some peanut oil until a little brown on all sides (about 4 minutes)
At this point turn off your pan and serve with rice on the side OR, add the rice to the pan and serve all at the same time. Top with a few chillies if using .