Braised Chicken with Fresh Water Chestnuts

Chicken is best when its mild flavour and soft texture are combined with other distinctive tastes and contrasting textures. Sweet, fresh, crispy water chestnuts are thus an admirable partner in any chicken dish.

The clarity of the flavours here, with plain rice, make it a perfect dish for a cool autumn evening. With vegetables, it makes a very satisfying complete meal: nutritious and tasty, but not heavy. Because it re-heats so well, it can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge.

I do not recommend the use of tinned water chestnuts as they are so watery and soft. If fresh water chestnuts are unavailable, substitute firm, fresh, peeled Asian pear apples or firm, crispy apples. Added at the last moment of cooking, they retain their sweet crunchiness.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 900 g (2 lb) chicken thighs with bone in
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • tablespoons finely shredded fresh root ginger
  • 225 g (8 oz) fresh water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons Chicken Stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For the Marinade

  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour

Method

If you are using unboned thighs, remove the skin and bones from the chicken thighs or have your butcher do it for you. Cut the chicken into 2.5-cm (1-in) chunks and combine it in a bowl with the light soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, sesame oil and cornflour. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Remove and drain the chicken. Now drain off all but 2 teaspoons of the oil from the wok.

Re-heat the wok, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Then add the drained chicken to the wok with the water chestnuts and the remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the chicken is cooked. Give the mixture a good stir, pour on to a warm platter and serve at once.

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