Chicken and vegetable stir-fry is an excellent dish in many ways. It is quick to prepare and rich in vitamins and minerals with a balanced proportion of protein, carbohydrates, and fibers.
Chicken and vegetable stir-fry is also a home-cooked dish for the whole family. It is a complete meal with balanced nutritional value and is best served with white rice, but it is also delightful to be a stand-alone meal or served with noodles.
I will explain in detail how I prepare the chicken stir-fry with vegetables. The easy recipe is very forgiving, which means you can use any combination of vegetables and substitute the chicken thighs with breast meat.
1. How to prepare the chicken
Here are three crucial points on how to prepare chicken meat. Let me explain.
a. Marinate the chicken.
This step is essential because chicken meat does not absorb the flavor of the stir-fry sauce quickly enough during the short stir-frying process. As a result, the meat will become tasteless in contrast to the broccoli and mushrooms that soak up all the gravy almost instantly.
To solve this problem, marinate the chicken with salt for at least fifteen minutes for thin slices and longer for bigger chunks.
There are a few common ingredients for the marinade besides salt. You can use light soy sauce for additional flavor, some cooking oil to create a smooth texture, and a little cornstarch to protect the meat from the direct heat during frying to avoid it from becoming dry.
b. The choice of meat.
Either chicken breast or thigh meat is suitable for this dish. However, I prefer thigh meat because it has a better flavor and is more tender. Besides, thigh meat will not easily break into smaller pieces during stir-frying than breast meat.
c. Stir-fry the chicken
Stir fry the chicken meat with some oil until golden brown to accentuate the umami. If you don’t do that, the stir-fried chicken will not develop the signature stir-frying aroma.
Stir-frying the chicken separately is the best way to achieve this. You may need to use lower heat initially since the chicken tends to stick to the wok’s surface due to the presence of cornstarch.
Note: Olive oil is not the choice for making stir-fries with the authentic Chinese flavor. The option is the oil with a high smoke point and a neutral flavor, such as corn oil, canola oil, and peanut oil.
2. Prepare the vegetables
a. The choice of vegetables
Vegetables and chicken are the perfect combinations viewed from different aspects. It is a meal with balanced protein, carbohydrates, and fibers. This stir fry is rich in natural pigments, vitamins, and minerals.
On the culinary side, the vegetables are visually appealing, with multiple colors and various shapes. They also have unique textures – a mix of crunchy vegetables and chewy mushrooms.
Remember always to choose a combination of different colors and textures when you do that. Also, cut them into different shapes for better presentation. You can use other fresh veggies besides carrots and broccoli. Some other favorite vegetables are snow peas, red bell pepper, yellow squash, baby corn, and green beans.
b. Soak the dried mushrooms
If you use the Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soak them overnight in a small bowl with water before use.
The dried mushrooms have a better flavor than their fresh counterpart.
If you are short of time, soak the mushrooms in hot water and place a plate on top to ensure they are all submerged in the water. Once it is partially hydrated, remove the stem, and cut it into strips, then continue soaking until fully hydrated. The time required will reduce drastically to only one to two hours.
The water after soaking the mushrooms is like a mushroom stock, full of flavor. Use it for cooking vegetables and making cornstarch slurry.
c. Blanch the carrot and broccoli
This step is optional, but I always use it for a reason.
The carrot and broccoli are harder vegetables. It is a bad idea to cook with others at the same time. You will expect other vegetables are already overcooked by the time the carrot pieces become tender. Although you may stir-fry the carrots and broccoli first and then add other fast-cooking vegetables in stages, prolonged stir-frying will make the carrot and broccoli less presentable. The oil in the pan may dirty the vegetables, and stir-frying tends to break up the broccoli florets.
Therefore, I blanch the carrot for five minutes and broccoli florets for four minutes, then finish by stir-frying the carrot and broccoli with the rest for a minute.
3. Prepare the seasoning
a. Prepare the flavorful sauce
There is no ‘standard’ stir-fry sauce, but most Chinese will likely use oyster sauce and light soy sauce in various proportions as the main ingredients. Besides both sauces, I include some Chinese rice wine, ground white pepper, salt, and sugar. I premix all the ingredients in a bowl. This can eliminate any chances of unintentionally adding the wrong amount or omitting an item.
Other seasonings you can add are sesame oil and rice vinegar. Since sesame oil is heat-sensitive, I prefer to add it to the wok in the last few seconds of stir-frying.
Chicken broth is unnecessary as fresh vegetables, chicken, and the savory sauce is enough to produce a wonderful flavor.
b. Cornstarch slurry
Combine the cornflour with water to form a slurry. Use the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce in the last thirty seconds. The cornflour required depends on how much liquid is still in the wok. Therefore, the amount may not be the same for each cooking. Add some water if you like to have more gravy.
4. Cook the chicken and vegetable stir fry
a. The chicken
I will start the stir-frying with the chicken and oil.
Heat all the oil this recipe requires into the wok (or a large pan) over low to medium heat. Add the sliced chicken pieces into it and start to stir fry.
There are two tips I would like to share.
- First, do not start with high heat. If you do so, high heat will cause the chicken pieces to stick onto the wok surface (unless you are using a non-stick pan) due to the cornflour in the marinade.
- Secondly, stir-fry (or you can pan-fry it like pan-frying steak) until it turns color and aromatic. This step makes a lot of difference to the final result as it creates aroma.
Once the chicken turns golden brown, remove and leave the excess oil in the wok.
Note: A well-seasoned wok is best for stir-frying. However, you can use a large nonstick skillet to stir fry.
b. The garlic and ginger
- Coarsely chopped the garlic. I would not suggest mincing the garlic as minced garlic can burn quickly during sauteing.
- Now use the remaining oil in the wok to saute the garlic and ginger slices. You may add some extra cooking oil if it is insufficient. The goal is to flavor the oil with garlic. The result is the flavorful chicken garlic oil, which will be used to stir-fry the vegetables.
- Once the garlic turns aromatic, remove and set aside. Since we want to stir fry the vegetables with higher heat, the garlic will burn when we finish stir-frying the vegetables if you do not remove it.
- Use the remaining oil in the wok to stir fry the vegetables.
Note: Fresh garlic tastes way better than garlic powder.
c. Stir fry the vegetables
Now add the Chinese mushrooms to the wok. Have a few quick stirs. Next, turn your stove to high heat and stir fry the vegetables.
Since we have blanched the carrot and broccoli florets, all the remaining ingredients will be cooked in the same period. In other words, you can add all the vegetables to the wok now.
Here are two tips I would like to share:
- Keep the wok at medium-high heat at all times. The goal is to stir fry the vegetables quickly, which is vital to retain the bright color and crunchiness.
- Splash a tablespoon of water into the wok whenever you feel it is too dry. However, do not add too much water to keep the wok hot all the time. You can keep adding a tablespoon of water every fifteen seconds, but the amount also depends on the quantity you cook.
Add the stir-fry sauce. Flip and toss to combine the vegetables with the sauce. Add more water if you want to have more sauce eventually.
d. Final step to prepare the chicken and vegetable stir fry
- Once the vegetables are well combined with the flavored oil and stir fry sauce, return the cooked chicken and garlic to the wok.
- Add half of the cornflour slurry to thicken the sauce.
- You may not need all the cornflour slurry to thicken the sauce. That is why I suggest adding half of it first, then deciding whether it is necessary to add the remainder. You should stop adding it once you get the desired consistency of the sauce.
- Finally, add the sesame oil, mix, and dish out.
- You can sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions as garnish.
- 300g chicken meat (thigh or breast meat)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 30g Chinese dried mushrooms (dry weight)
- 60g button mushrooms
- 150g broccoli florets (after cut)
- 70g baby corn
- 60g red capsicums (after cut)
- 80g carrot (after cut)
- 6 cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)
- 4 slices ginger
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp cooking oil for stir-frying
- Marinate the chicken with ingredients A for 15 minutes.
- Soak the dried mushrooms overnight. Remove the stem and cut into strips
- Blanch the carrot for one minute and broccoli for four minutes in boiling water. Remove and drain.
- Prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in C except the sesame oil.
- Stir fry the chicken with 2 tbsp of cooking oil over low to medium heat until golden brown. Remove.
- Saute the garlic and ginger until aromatic. Remove.
- Add the Chinese mushrooms to the wok. Have a few quick stirs.
- Turn to high heat. Add the remaining ingredients.
- Add the stir fry sauce.
- Once the vegetables are well combined with the flavored oil and stir fry sauce, return the cooked chicken and sauteed garlic to the wok.
- Thicken with cornflour slurry (Ingredients D)
- Finally, add the sesame oil, mix, and dish out.
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Serving Size:2 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 862Total Fat: 50gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 40gCholesterol: 134mgSodium: 2969mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 9gSugar: 11gProtein: 51g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 9/20/2019