Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicken Stir-Fry with Snow Peas

Chicken Stir-Fry with Snow Peas

"How did you make that chicken??"  Joe insisted on knowing.  He couldn't stop talking about how tender and juicy and perfectly cooked it was.  I had just thrown some ingredients in the fridge together as a stir-fry, and he loved it.  "Is it dark-meat chicken?  Thighs?"  No.  "Then what did you do to it?"

I had fun drawing out the suspense.  I had just taken chicken breasts, cut them up, and marinated them for a few minutes in soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine vinegar, and a bit of baking soda.  A later conversation with my mother revealed that restaurants use the baking soda to tenderize beef, not chicken; egg white is used for chicken.  Whatever, Mom, it works.  No, you won't taste the baking soda, and I wouldn't be worried about consuming it -- it's in baked goods all the time.  Worth noting: I like this brand of oyster sauce because it has no MSG.

Kind of worth noting: I have childhood memories of my mom seating me in front of piles of snow peas and having me peel off that tendril at the top and down the side.  It annoyed me as a kid, especially since I hated vegetables until college, but I smile to think of it now.

Chicken pieces
My other guess as to why the chicken turned out so well is that I always try not to overcook meat.  I think people get so afraid of undercooking meat that they dry it out and toughen it, and I cooked the chicken just until it was done.

Chicken Stir-Fry Plate
Throw in some garlic and slightly crunchy snow peas, and you've got a delicious and healthy dinner.  And a Joe who won't stop eating the chicken when you try to photograph a blog post.

If you haven't heard it before, the key to stir-frying is to have all your prep done in advance.  The actual cooking in the wok goes very fast -- while you're chopping some vegetable or measuring something out, the ingredients in the wok are getting overcooked.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Snow Peas
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
½ tsp baking soda

2 tbs vegetable oil
1 small onion, sliced
4 oz. snow peas, tendrils at top removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup water
¼ cup oyster sauce
2 scallions, sliced

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the cornstarch, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and baking soda.

Get a wok or large skillet very hot over high heat.  Add 1 tbs of the oil and carefully swirl the wok to coat the sides.  Add the chicken, then scatter it so the pieces are in a single layer in contact with the surface of the wok.  Let them brown on one side then flip the pieces, cooking just until the meat is done and no longer pink, about 5 minutes total.  Avoid overcooking.  Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, followed by the onion.  Cook for one minute, stirring a few times.  Add the snow peas and garlic.  They will take about 5 minutes to cook until crisp-tender, and when they start to dry out add the ½ cup of water.

Add the oyster sauce and return the chicken to the wok, stirring to combine for one minute.  The cornstarch that coated the chicken in the beginning will thicken the sauce a bit.  Move stir-fry to a plate and top with scallions.


  1. I was smiling as I read this post... my mom also made me peel off the snow pea edges. I liked veggies but hated all the prep work she asked me to do (which is why I was so happy I didn't have to help in the kitchen when I came to college here). But I guess I learned all the cooking while I was *helping* her. I'm going to try this tonight - I have snow peas and chicken and your version looks so delicious! Thanks for saving my time to think of tonight menu~~~~!

  2. Anything stir fried at home is the one comfort dish I yearn for when I've had too much of eating out. Your chicken and snow peas look so appetizing.

  3. Update: We just had dinner and everyone loved it! Thank you! We used chicken thighs instead of breasts as my husband always prefer thighs. Kids finished whole plate of chicken and my son was really happy with the dish. Thank you so much!


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