Chinese take-out dishes are easy to prepare at home

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Whenever you can’t think of what to prepare for your evening meal, do you instinctively grab the phone to order some Chinese take-out food? If you do, why not try making some Chinese take-out at home? It’s a lot easier to prepare than you might think.
You don’t need a lot of special cookware or fancy ingredients to prepare some great Chinese food. Just use items you already have in your pantry. You don’t even need to own a wok. Just use any frying pan (the deeper the better). If you do own a wok, all the better.
Use items in your pantry
When cooking Chinese food, don’t hesitate to substitute for similar ingredients in your pantry to avoid making a separate shopping trip just for some obscure ingredients. For rice wine, use a dry white wine; use red wine vinegar for rice vinegar; or substitute dried Mexican chili peppers for specialty-dried chili peppers. Tailor the seasonings to your own tastes.
Don’t forget the rice
No matter which Chinese meal you decide upon, all meals usually begin with white rice. Chinese noodles are also a good alternative to rice for those who prefer noodles over rice. Any combination of vegetables, with or without meat or seafood, can be stir-fried. Just add a combination of your favorites or use some of the vegetable stir-fry combinations found at your local food market.

Sesame Chicken
This recipe really satisfies my craving for Chinese food. It is a nice low-fat alternative to the restaurant-style version.
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsps. sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup chives, chopped
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
Combine the flour and pepper in a zipper bag. Add the chicken and shake to coat. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink. Remove from skillet. And the soy sauce and sugar to the pan. Cook and stir until the sugar is melted. Stir in the sesame oil and sesame seeds. Add the chicken and chives and stir to coat. Makes 4 servings.

Sesame Noodles
This is a perfect complement to the Sesame Chicken dish, and especially when served cold.
12 oz. Chinese noodles or linguine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese sesame oil
1 tsp. hot chili sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup sliced green onions, whites and greens
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain, rinse to cool. Combine remaining ingredients and toss with pasta. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Note: add cooked chicken, broccoli (blanched for 2 minutes) or chopped cucumber, if desired.

General Tso’s Chicken
This recipe is much easier than it may appear. Make it as spicy as you like.
1 lb. chicken thighs
1 egg white
4 Tbsps. cornstarch
2 Tbsps. soy sauce
3 Tbsps. white or rice wine
2 tsps. white vinegar
2 tsps. sugar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
6 dried red chili peppers
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
Peanut oil for frying
Bone and remove skin of chicken. Cut into one 1-inch or smaller cubes. Prepare the marinade by combining egg white, 1 tablespoons each of the cornstarch and wine and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Add chicken pieces and coat. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
Prepare the sauce while chicken marinates. Whisk together remaining cornstarch with a small amount of the chicken stock until smooth. Add the rest of the stock, wine, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce; set aside.
In a large wok or pan, heat enough of the peanut oil to cover the chicken pieces to 350 degrees. Carefully add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown. This should only take a couple of minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Discard all but a small amount of the oil from the pan. Fry the chili peppers until very dark in color. Add the remaining ingredients and stir-fry briefly. Add in the sauce and fried chicken, tossing all to mix. Serve with steamed or fried rice. Makes 4 servings.

Asian Orange Chicken
Enjoy delicious citrus chicken marinated in lemon and orange juice with brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
3 Tbsps. olive oil
1-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsps. orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2-1/2 Tbsps. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsps. chopped green onion
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 Tbsps. cornstarch
2 Tbsps. water
A day before serving, combine water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce in a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10-15 minutes.
Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour a cup of sauce into the bag; reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the bag, and refrigerate overnight.
Using a resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels, and cover with aluminum foil. Wipe out the skillet, and add the reserved sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water; stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the chicken pieces and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve over a bed of steaming rice and garnish with thinly sliced scallions. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.