Chicken and Cucumbers

Ji Chao Huangguading

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Szechwanese cucumbers are longer, thinner, and tastier than the American variety. Mrs. Chiang’s family grew several kinds of cucumbers and cucumber-like squashes, which her mother cooked, pickled, and served raw in salads as well:

    “We ate cooked cucumber often; we children loved its softness and its mild, faintly bitter flavor.”

    In this spicy chicken dish the cucumbers provide a nice contrast to the slightly fibrous texture of the chicken pieces and the overall pepperiness of the sauce.

    One enormous advantage of this recipe is that it requires no exotic ingredients. Outside of the most basic Oriental staples, you can find everything you need at the corner grocery store or supermarket. It is also very easy to prepare, and, though the raw chicken should marinate for 30 minutes, the entire dish takes only about 5 minutes to cook.

    Method

    Preparation

    2 whole chicken breasts (about 1-½ to 2 pounds) Remove the skin from the chicken breasts and bone them, then chop the meat into small cubes, about ½ inch on each side. Put the chicken into a bowl.
    2 scallions Clean the scallions, then cut them, both white part and green, crosswise into pieces about 1¼ inch long. Add these to the chicken.

    ½ teaspoon granulated sugar

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon sesame oil

    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry

    1 egg white

    1 tablespoon cornstarch

    Add the sugar, salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, wine, egg white, and cornstarch to the chicken. Using chopsticks or a wooden spoon, mix everything together well, so the egg white is thoroughly blended in with the other ingredients. Set the chicken aside to marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
    2 small cucumbers Peel the cucumbers, then cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seedy pulp in the middle. Chop the cucumber flesh into ½-inch cubes, roughly the same size as the chicken pieces. Put the cucumbers in a bowl. (You should get about 2 cups of chopped cucumber. If your cucumbers seem large, use only half of the second one.)
    ½ teaspoon salt Sprinkle the salt over the cucumbers, stir, and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
    4 dried hot red peppers Cut the peppers into 3 or 4 pieces, each about ½ inch long.
    10 cloves garlic Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your cleaver, then peel. Chop the garlic coarsely, into pieces roughly the size of grains of uncooked rice.
    (cucumbers) Just before you are ready to begin cooking, drain the cucumbers, using your hands to squeeze out as much of their excess moisture as you can.

    Cooking

    1 tablespoon peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a high flame for 15 seconds, then pour in the oil. It will be ready to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few wisps of smoke appear.
    (cucumbers) When the oil is ready, toss in the cucumbers, and stir-fry them fairly vigorously, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop them off the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle, so all the cucumbers are exposed to the hot oil. Remove them from the pan after 1½ minutes and set aside.

    1 tablespoon water

    (chicken mixture)

    Combine the water and the chicken mixture and stir well, so the cornstarch is thoroughly blended in.

    ½ cup peanut oil

    (garlic)

    Wipe the pan out with paper towels, then reheat over the same high flame. Pour in the fresh oil, and, when it is hot enough, add the garlic, stirring it around in the pan for 15 seconds. Be careful to see that it doesn’t burn.
    (dried red peppers) Add the dried red peppers and stir-fry them together with the garlic, for another 15 seconds.
    (chicken mixture) Give the chicken mixture one last stir and add it to the pan. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

    2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes in oil

    2 tablespoons soy sauce

    (cucumbers)

    Add the hot pepper flakes in oil and stir-fry the chicken for another 15 seconds, then, finally, add the soy sauce and stir-fry the chicken for 15 seconds more.

    Return the partly cooked cucumbers to the pan. Cook them, together with the chicken, over the same high heat for another 1 or 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that all the ingredients are equally exposed to the hot oil. The chicken will be fully cooked when it has stiffened and turned white. Test a piece for doneness, and when the chicken is ready, remove it quickly from the heat and serve. (Do not overcook this dish or the chicken will be tough and the cucumbers mushy.)