When stiry frying, how do vegetables maintain their crispness despite the intensely high cooking temperature? In cooking this chicken broccoli stir fry, I tried a not so well-known technique and the result was fantastic.
Asian stir fries are beautiful dishes. With just a few ingredients, you can make a delicious and colorful meal. But stir frying is a deceptively simple technique. Watching seasoned cooks do it, it just looks like a tossing and stirring over high heat. Is it, really?
While different ingredients will require different treatments for successful stir frying, broccoli has been especially challenging for me. At dinner in Hong Kong Disneyland, in a take-out meal in Taiwan and a bento box in Japan, the broccoli florets were cooked through but still crisp and moist without that sensation that they had just been blanched in plain water.
So, I decided to try something I picked up from NHK World.
Blanch before stir frying
A Japanese cooking technique for making a Chinese stir fry — blanch the broccoli in good quality broth (salted water will do too but with less flavorful result) with a little oil stirred in.
And to make sure that the broccoli does not continue cooking in the residual heat after blanching, dump the florets in iced water to cool before stir frying.
Spices and a good sauce make a huge difference
With the textural issue addressed, what about flavor?
It’s not that you need a ton of spices. You just need the right combination in the correct amounts — garlic and ginger in this case — which you need to saute to heighten the flavors.
You don’t need the chicken and broccoli to be swimming in sauce for moistness either. You want just enough sauce to coat the chicken and broccoli and to moisten the surface and make them shiny. With that meagre amount of sauce, you need concentrated flavors. And that require good chicken broth as the base.
Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil divided
- 4 chicken thigh fillets cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 head broccoli broken into florets
- 1 teaspoon tapioca or corn or potato starch
- 1 generous pinch sugar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger grated
- 1 splash rice wine
- In a wok or frying pan, boil the chicken broth with one tablespoon sesame seed oil.
- With the broth boiling briskly, drop in the chicken pieces. Stir once to separate. Cook just until the chicken meat changes color. Scoop out and transfer to a plate.
- Bring the broth to a hard boil once more. Drop in the broccoli florets and cook for one minute. Scoop out and dump in a bowl of iced water. Leave for a minute and drain well.
- Make the sauce by stirring together the 1/3 cup of the chicken broth, starch and sugar.
- Clean out the wok or frying pan. Pour in the remaining sesame seed oil and heat. Saute the garlic and ginger with a bit of salt and pepper until fragrant and lightly browned.
- Turn up the heat. Add the chicken and broccoli to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (add sparingly if the chicken broth is already seasoned). Stir fry for a minute.
- Pour in the sauce. Cook, stirring, until thick and clear. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- Serve the chicken broccoli stir fry immediately.