We're all guilty of it. It's late in the day, you forgot to take out anything to defrost for dinner, and you're simply running out of time. It seems your only options are a bowl of cereal or some take-out. Good thing you've got your local Chinese restaurant on speed dial and the menu memorized by now.
Ever since Chinese immigrants first began serving wok-cooked food to Western miners and railroad workers in the 19th century, Asian cuisine has been a big hit in the United States. Even though Chinese food in the U.S. was tweaked a bit for Western palettes, still it retained much of its original flavors and ingredients that remain popular today.
But it's time to leave your neighborhood Chinese joint behind, because Chinese cuisine is as easy to prepare at home and is a great way to serve up healthy dinners for your family. Whether you're a rookie with the fortune cookie or a veteran of the wok, you'll enjoy trying out these five easy-to-prepare family-style Chinese meals.
If you pay a visit to any Chinese food restaurant in the United States, you're quite likely to find almond chicken on the menu. The first step is to prepare your sauce, made from a mix of sherry, soy sauce, corn starch and chicken bouillon. The sauce will be the base of your dish, with additional flavor coming from bamboo shoots, stir-fried almonds, carrot and ginger. Onion and celery finish the list, and don't forget the chicken, cut into small cubes. This recipe will take you through it step by step.
Apricot-Chicken Pot Stickers
One of the hallmarks of great Chinese food is a yummy appetizer to tempt the taste buds. Believe it or not, apps like pot stickers aren't as tough to make as you think and add a lot of flair to your family-style Chinese meal. The key to a homemade pot sticker is buying pre-made wonton wrappers. As for the ingredients to stuff your pot stickers, the sky's the limit. In this recipe, we use cabbage, ginger, chicken and an apricot fruit spread. Simply add your ingredients, fold the wonton wrappers shut and you're just a quick steam away from serving.
Chinese Cabbage Salad
Great Chinese food doesn't always have to happen in the wok. Here's a yummy recipe for an easy to prepare salad. Start by buying some pre-shredded cabbage, fresh ginger, red apples, golden raisins and green onion. A little cider vinegar, sesame oil and cilantro will round out the flavors. If you want to add a little extra protein, sauté some cubed chicken in soy sauce and sesame oil beforehand and chill it in the fridge, then add it as a topper.
Chinese-style Fried Brown Rice
Fried rice is a staple of Chinese-American cuisine, something you'll find on every take-out menu across the country. The trouble with fried rice is that it's typically made from enriched white rice, which isn't very good for you. If you want to serve your family something easy and a bit healthier, try substituting that white rice with brown rice.
Fried rice is easy to prepare, as long as you make the rice ahead of time and put it in your fridge -- cool rice cooks better in the wok than fresh, hot rice. A little soy sauce, scrambled egg, peas, carrots and onion and you're almost there. This recipe calls for diced smoked ham for additional flavor, but you can substitute chicken or pork or omit the meat all together to make this a vegetarian dish.
Five-spice Beef Stir-fry
For this recipe, the use of traditional Chinese five-spice powder is the key to the flavor. The five spices in this mixture are cinnamon, clove, fennel seed, anise and Szechuan peppercorns. You should be able to find them at your local grocery store on the spice aisle or in the ethnic food section. Sirloin is the beef of choice for this recipe, cooked stir-fry-style with carrots, onion, and red and yellow peppers. The ever present soy sauce with a little red pepper and brown sugar make this a sweet and spicy treat to serve your family over white or brown rice.
Chinese cooking 101 will teach you everything from dim sum to Sichuan roast duck. Check out Chinese cooking 101 from HowStuffWorks.
- Anderson Almonds. "Frequently Asked Questions." Andersonalmonds.com. Nov. 18, 2011.http://www.andersonalmonds.com/faq.htm