Nostalgic Chicken Subgum

This is probably one of the best-known Westernized Chinese dishes, appearing on menus in many Chinese restaurants.

Curiously enough, the Chinese name implies ‘ten gold treasures’ stir-fried with chicken – in the West, mostly chicken breast. It uses a simple method of combining chicken with whatever vegetables are in season and inexpensive. You can easily make this recipe your own by improvising with your choice of vegetables. Cooked properly, it makes a delightful, easy chicken dish that is tasty with plain rice.

Ingredients

  • 350 g (12 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) groundnut oil, or 240 ml (8 fl oz) water (see variations) and 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced
  • 115 g (4 oz) celery heart, sliced crossways
  • 1 small courgette, cut into 1 cm (½ in) slices
  • 1 red pepper; seeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) squares
  • 1 green pepper seeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) squares
  • 115 g (4 oz) fresh or canned water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
  • 5 spring onions, cut into 5 cm (2 in) slices
  • 1 tomato, cut into 8 wedges
  • 115 g (4 oz) Chinese leaves, coarsely shredded
  • 115 g (4 oz) bok choy, washed and cut into 5 cm (2 in) slices

For the Sauce

  • tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Method

Cut the chicken into 2.5 cm (1 in) cubes and combine it with the egg white, cornflour, salt, pepper and sesame oil. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Heat a wok until it is very hot and then add the groundnut oil. When the oil is very hot, remove the wok from the heat and immediately add the chicken pieces, stirring vigorously to keep them from sticking. As soon as the chicken pieces turn white, in about 2 minutes, quickly drain them in a stainless steel colander set in a bowl to catch the oil. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the drained oil and discard the rest.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the reserved 2 tablespoons of oil (or 2 fresh tablespoons of groundnut oil if you used water) and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the garlic and onion and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Then scatter in the celery, courgette, peppers and water chestnuts and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Finally, toss in the spring onions, tomato, Chinese leaves and bok choy and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender. Mix together the sauce ingredients, pour into the wok and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the sauce and give the mixture a few turns to mix well. Serve at once.

Variation

If you choose to use water instead of oil, bring it to the boil in a saucepan. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add the chicken pieces, stirring vigorously to keep them from sticking. When the chicken pieces turn white, in about 2 minutes, quickly drain the chicken in a stainless steel colander set in a bowl. Discard the water.

Feel free to substitute other types of vegetables, such as mange-touts, sugar snap peas, carrots or leeks. One of the beauties of this recipe is that you can so easily improvise according to what’s in season: a spring version with asparagus, peas and mangetouts; an autumn version with carrots, leeks, celeriac and turnips.

,