Chicken Chow Mein

For whatever reason, I've had a real taste for Panda Express lately--I know, it's horrible to use cheap, fast food Chinese food as inspiration, but the stomach wants what the stomach wants. I decided to attempt one of my husband's favorites from Panda, the chow mein, and found a recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/chicken-chow-mein-recipe/index.html

Now, I've cooked quite a bit at this point, and let me tell you--this is one I was really proud of! The flavors, in my opinion, BEAT Panda Express by a long shot and tasted more like something you would find at a real Chinese restaurant (minus the grease :D). It takes a bit of prep work due to all the fresh ingredients, but it is SO worth it!

I should note here that I deviated from the recipe as listed above in a few ways. First, I did not include any rice to make the recipe more like the Panda Express one (which is all noodle!). Second, I did not use the Chinese soba noodles because: a) several posters on that site had issues cooking them and b) Ramen noodles cook quickly and are super cheap, so I substituted in four packages of these noodles (no seasoning!) instead. Third, we dislike most of the veggie choices in this recipe, so instead of the mushrooms, water chestnuts, and bean sprouts, we used peas and broccoli, making this more of a cross between chow mein and a stir fry. But still SOOO good! Finally, do NOT add extra salt! Soy sauce is extremely salty already, and salt would just be overkill.

All right, now let's get started! Our ingredients (minus the salt):

  • 4 pkgs. Ramen noodles (flavor doesn't matter, since you aren't using the seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (for cooking your veggies/chicken)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned (I made mine from a bouillon cube)
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce (smells gross, but so much flavor!)
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, plus more for the table
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin 2-inch-long strips
  • 1 teaspoon dark Asian sesame oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas (pea pods would work too)
First, prep your ingredients: chop your broccoli, celery, onion, (peeled) ginger, scallions, and garlic. The ginger and garlic will be sauteed first, so you can set those aside together if you'd like. Scallions will not be cooked at all, but will be used as a garnish, so set this aside too, then place the peas in with the remaining ingredients. With so much green, I divided everything into stages for cooking, but you can always save on the dirty dishes by keeping all your fresh ingredients together.

Next, combine your chicken broth with the oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch, and sugar in a small bowl. It is easiest to do this when the chicken broth is hot, as it will dissolve the sugar and cornstarch quickly.

Finally, slice your chicken breasts on a diagonal into thin strips. When finished, sprinkle pepper and drizzle sesame oil on top of slices, making sure all surfaces of the chicken are coated evenly.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the ginger and garlic until soft and fragrant (watch closely to make sure it doesn't burn). Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until lightly browned (this should only take 2-3 minutes). Next, add in your vegetables. I placed a lid on top of the dish to steam the broccoli and peas a bit (you don't have to cook them before adding them to the skillet, and in fact, putting them in raw allows the broccoli to retain a bit of crispness!). Finally, pour the chicken broth mixture over the tops of the vegetables, stir, and turn down the heat to low/medium to allow the mixture to simmer and thicken.

Cook your Ramen noodles by boiling them on the stove for approximately three minutes. By the time these are finished and drained, your chicken/veggie mix should be cooked and the sauce thickened. To plate, layer the Ramen noodles, chicken and veggies, and a sprinkling of the scallions. Enjoy!

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