Quarantine Cooking – Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry

Raise your hand if you panic-bought anything in the month of March.

I think we all were guilty of making at least one panic purchase when the pending reality of Coronavirus hit. I shop for just myself, so I didn’t buy much out of the ordinary on that shopping trip in the midst of chaos. I did, however, convince myself I needed to buy a package of brown rice noodles from the international aisle after I saw that the entire pasta and rice aisle was empty.

That was roughly March 12th. Over a month later, that package of rice noodles was still sitting in my pantry (as of yesterday). Why? Because I bought those noodles with absolutely no plans on how to incorporate them into a meal. I’ve been to the store several times since then and have planned/cooked numerous meals, but the rice noodles sat neglected on my shelf.

I put those noodles to use last night with a chicken teriyaki stir-fry dish. I needed chicken for two dishes this week, so I bought a whole chicken, figuring this would be a good chance to practice breaking down poultry. I want to keep working on my skills even if I am mostly stuck in my own kitchen.

The greatest part of buying a whole chicken is that it can fulfill multiple purposes. After I deboned the chicken, I separated the meat to be used for two different dishes. Then I stored the carcass and bones, so I can make chicken stock later. That’s a three-in-one deal!

For now, I will just share my recipe for chicken teriyaki.  Here’s what you need:

  • canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • one pound boneless chicken, cut into one inch pieces
  • 2-3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice (I went with julienned carrots and snow peas this time)
  • one package rice noodles, cooked according to package directions (can substitute for another Asian-type noodle like udon or lo mein)

And for the sauce:

  • canola oil
  • two cloves garlic, minced
  • one tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2-2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2-2/3 cup (or more) water
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

I will let you in on a little secret. I did not actually use brown sugar last night, because I didn’t have any. I keep forgetting to buy some. However, brown sugar is simply granulated sugar with molasses. I did happen to have molasses, so I used white sugar and molasses. If you happen to not have brown sugar or molasses, don’t sweat it. Just use regular sugar. Dishes like this are all about using what you have. If you don’t have garlic, substitute garlic powder (though I prefer actual garlic).

You can make this dish mostly in one pot. No need to dirty several dishes. I like using a 5-6 quart sauté pan, because it is big enough to hold all the ingredients by the end.

Start by heating some canola oil in the pan. When the oil is hot, season the chicken with salt and pepper and add the chicken to the pan, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet and transfer to a plate to rest.

Meanwhile pour more oil in the pan if necessary. Add the vegetables and sauté until mostly cooked, seasoning with salt and pepper. (They will get cooked again in the final step). Remove vegetables and transfer onto another plate or bowl.

[FYI, I use rice noodles that are cooked by submerging in hot water (off heat). I like to use my electric tea kettle to boil my water. As I prepared my ingredients for the sauce, I started my tea kettle to cook my noodles. If you are boiling water on the stove, this should be done at the beginning of your process.]

To build the sauce, drizzle some more canola oil in the pan. Add your garlic and ginger, cooking for a minute or two. (Be careful to not get the heat too high, as you don’t want to burn your aromatics). Sprinkle the cornstarch into the oil and mix into the hot oil until it forms a paste. Let the starch cook for roughly one minute. Then, quickly add all remaining ingredients (brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and water). As you add the ingredients, whisk until the starch dissolves into the liquid and thickens into a sauce. Once you notice the starch has activated, reduce the heat to a simmer.

If you find that your sauce turns into a big lump, don’t worry. You just need to add some more liquid (water, soy, or both). You can add equal parts soy sauce and water, but beware of the salt content in soy sauce. Water is generally a safer bet. You can always add salt to season the sauce at the end. The liquid will thin your sauce, but the corn starch will continue to thicken the sauce as it bubbles. The perfect balance for viscosity for this sauce is when it will lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste your sauce for seasoning and add salt if you think it needs some.

Once you are satisfied with your sauce, add your cooked chicken and vegetables into the sauce and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Then add your cooked noodles and toss to combined before serving.

When you just add the chicken in vegetables, you may feel like there is too much sauce, but the noodles will soak it all up.

I love teriyaki sauce, but I loved it even more when I realized how easy it is to make from scratch. Homemade teriyaki is so much better than the store-bought bottled versions, and it doesn’t have all the additives. It is tangy and sweet, and the ginger flavor truly pops.

I like this dish with chicken, but you could substitute for a number of meats (pork, shrimp, beef). This is also a good dish if you have some vegetables that you need to use up.

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I’m off to go finish my final papers for school, but I promise you will hear much more from me soon!

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