My lovely wife is in the habit of ordering one thing time and again when we call out for Chinese food: chicken with broccoli. It’s usually pretty good at my local take-out, but I’ve gotten unlucky before, and the chicken can be rubbery, the broccoli way overcooked and the sauce cloyingly sweet.
I was determined to make it better (and cheaper!) at home.
This recipe is an easy stir-fry for the home cook. No special equipment required – while I’m sure it’d be nice to use a wok over a roaring flame, I have an electric stovetop, so I just pulled out the biggest skillet in my cupboard. Prep is important when stir-frying – once your pan is on the heat, everything comes together quickly, so you’ll want all of your ingredients assembled and at the ready. Another technique note: the chicken is “velveted” in this recipe, or tossed with cornstarch slurry to protect it during cooking. This is the first time I’ve tried this technique but it seemed to work – the meat was moist and flavorful even having simmered for about 20 minutes on the stove after cooking. Once it all came together, it looked a little something like this:
I finished the dish with a few pinches of kosher salt and awaited my wife’s return home. And with crisp broccoli, savory chicken and a sauce that doesn’t drown everything else out, you simply can’t go wrong.
Chicken with Broccoli, Chinese Take-out Style
1 lb broccoli – 2 large heads should do it
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 lb chicken breasts or chicken tenders, cubed
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 ½ tsp sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
1 chunk unpeeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 can (8 oz) sliced bamboo shoots (check the international aisle of your local grocery store)
1 tsp sesame oil
Chop the broccoli into florets and stalks. It’s easiest to slice the florets off in one stroke, then slice the stalks into bite-size pieces.
In a work bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and rice wine vinegar (and do it quickly; the cornstarch can clump easily in the liquid). Add the chicken and toss with your hands to evenly coat all of the pieces.
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar and 2 tbsp water. Set aside.
In a large skillet or stir-fry pan, heat 1 tbsp canola oil over high heat (and make sure it’s canola, otherwise you’ll set off your smoke alarm!) Once hot, toss the broccoli into the pan and cook for about 30 seconds. Add three tbsp water to the pan, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook the broccoli for another 3 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Set the broccoli aside.
Heat 3 tbsp canola oil over high heat, then add the ginger and garlic to the pan. Once the ginger and garlic start to sizzle, add the chicken and toss throughout the pan to cook evenly. Be very careful at this stage, as the oil will spatter everywhere.
Once the chicken chunks all look cooked on the outside, remove the ginger and garlic, then reduce heat to medium and add the soy sauce mixture. Drain the bamboo shoots in the can, then add to the pan with the broccoli. Cook, stirring frequently, until all ingredients are heated through and sauced. Drizzle the sesame oil over the pan and stir well.