Braised Red Bean Curd Chicken

This home-style dish could easily have come straight out of southern China, and it probably did. It has been a standard item on the family tables of countless Chinese homes in the West. And it is typical of the hearty cooking my mother would prepare on an autumn or winter evening in Chicago. That is to say, this is a cold-weather dish.

One virtue of this treat is that my mother could make it the night before, or before she set off for work in the morning. Then, in the evening, she would reheat some soup, stir-fry some seasonal vegetables and reheat this casserole, bringing it all together for a satisfying meal.

Fermented red bean curd works its magic by infusing the dish with robust flavours and zest. The use of potatoes is definitely a non-Chinese touch: Westernized Chinese home cooking at its best. Fermented red bean curd is available at Chinese grocers and supermarkets.

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Ingredients

  • 675 g ( lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 450 g (1 lb) potatoes
  • tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons fermented red bean curd
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 480 ml (16 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Method

Cut the chicken thighs into 5 cm (2 in) pieces and mix them with 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and the cornflour. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) chunks.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Drain off all the excess fat and oil. Now toss in the ginger and bean curd, mix well and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Throw in the potatoes and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper and five-spice powder. Pour in the chicken stock, remaining rice wine, soy sauce and remaining sesame oil and sprinkle in the sugar. Mix well and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Serve at once, or let it cool and then refrigerate; it reheats beautifully.

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