sweet and sour chicken

On Becoming Asian: Stir-fried Sweet and Sour Chicken

“I think I’m becoming Asian,” I said as I sat down to eat a fabulously tasteful meal of stir-fried sweet and sour chicken. I quite literally patted myself on the back and grinned. When I smile, my eyes narrow dramatically. I’ve been asked on several occasions if my half-Japanese best friend is my sister. I take it as a compliment.

When I went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for this week’s stir-fried sweet and sour chicken, I was surprised to find myself ogling things like acorn squash and various kinds of meats that would have before been completely out of my league. I didn’t buy them, of course (they weren’t on the list, and therefore not in the budget) but the sheer thought of myself attempting to cook such foods actually caught me off guard.

I reminisced about my grandma’s squash, cut in half and slathered with butter and brown sugar before baking in the oven for an unspecified amount of time. I used to love going to grandma’s house to eat. I still do. Family meals are so Asian of me.

It could have been that I went shopping hungry (I really need to stop doing that – I have no problem leaving meat on the shelf when it’s not on the list, but chocolate and wine tend to scream, “you just forgot to write me down, you really do need me!”) but I honestly feel like those thoughts were more of a result of this semi-forced cooking assignment with unexpected effects creeping up on me, like, I might actually be enjoying myself in the kitchen, and developing a confidence behind the stove.

sweet and sour chicken

Whoa. That’s a big statement right there.

I started to notice the confidence boost when I was scouring recipes for sweet and sour chicken, before I ever went to the store. Each one was completely different from the last, with almost no consistency other than the chicken itself, cut into strips. I used my little pink book as a starting point, and then Googled more to find this and this. When none of them seemed quite right (mind you, I have no idea what right is in this situation), I decided to combine them all and make my own.

Whoa. I know.

And I didn’t even measure most of the ingredients.

It must be my Asian instincts.

I even fried up some of the spring rolls I made a couple weeks ago and saved in the freezer. Surprisingly, they tasted just as good as the first time (I guess that’s the beauty of fried food). We Asians love fried food.

sweet and sour chicken

However, you’ll notice a lack of rice on my plate. All of my Asian friends will think I’m odd for not pouring my sweet and sour chicken over a bowl of fluffy white rice, but I’ve been back from Asia over four months now, and have yet to miss the stuff.

I like it, sure, but my body does not. It serves as a filler in most Thai dishes and almost all Chinese dishes, but with all of this cooking combined with the stresses and over-commitments of becoming a college student yet again, I already stand the risk of gaining the freshmen 15.

Perhaps I’m not Asian after all.

 

Stir-fried Sweet & Sour Chicken

Vegetable oil

2 Chicken breasts, cut into strips

Chili powder and black pepper

Red pepper, sliced

Green pepper, sliced

Onion, sliced

Zucchini, sliced

2 red chilies

1 teaspoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce

ketchup

3 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 3 teaspoons water

½ can pineapple chunks, drained with ½ cup reserved juice

¼ cup chicken stock

3 tablespoons brown sugar

 

Directions

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Season the chicken breasts with chili powder and black pepper, add to pan. Brown chicken and remove from pan. Add all sliced veggies and cook for 1 minute. Stir in pineapple chunks, juice, sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, ketchup and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. When sauce begins to reduce, add cornstarch. Stir chicken back in and cook until finished. You may serve over rice, or with a side of spring rolls.


On Becoming Asian: Stir-fried Sweet and Sour Chicken
Written by:Jessica J. Hill

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14 Comments

  1. Edna says:

    Oh man, I am salivating over here at my desk. That looks fantastic…other than the lack of rice, of course 😉

  2. Haley says:

    I’ve newly subscribed to your blog, so forgive me for not knowing, but how long are you going to be back in the states (if, in fact, you ARE in the states)?

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Haley! Thanks for subscribing and leaving some comment love 😉 I am back in The States now, but dreaming of faraway lands already. I’ve just begun a 2-year graduate school program, but hoping to travel to Latin America next summer to get my fix. Where are you?

      • Haley says:

        I’m in Louisiana completing my bachelors in Math Education this year! I’ve had the travel bug since I got to stay in Bangladesh when I was 15 but have thus far had to pay for all schooling out of pocket, so traveling has been virtually impossible. :/ instead, I live vicariously through people like you haha! But as soon as I’m finished teaching and can get a job overseas, I’m outta here! Are you planning on taking a solo trip to South America?

        • jessicajhill says:

          That’s great, Haley! Sounds like you have big plans, and you’re determined enough to get there. At this point, I think my sister and a friend are going to come with me to S.A., but if they can’t make it I’ll go alone (money allowing). I’m already looking forward to it after six weeks of school 😉

          Let me know if you need any help finding a job overseas. I currently recruit for Thailand and China via my website http://www.teachenglishesl.com.

          Cheers!

  3. Emily says:

    Never go shopping when you’re hungry- it’s the quickest way to not only buy wine and chocolate, but also doritos, pop-tarts, hello kitty fruit snacks and of course, chips and salsa. Confession-this is me just looking at my counter since I have been victim of the “shopping when hungry” crisis.
    Anyway, I think it is beyond awesome you abandoned the recipe, and went no holds barred. From a fellow chef who frequently sacrifices recipes for eyeballing (Rachel Ray vocab, not sure how I feel about her), did you feel more satisfied knowing that this entire meal began and ended with you?

    I felt the same shock and awe, the same existential “who am I?” crisis when I was cooking and actually enjoying myself (sans the wine, although that would have surely ensured maximum enjoyment.) You’re not Asian, Jessica, you’re finding success because, with all this amazing practice we’re getting, we’re just able to master all kinds of cuisine 😉

    • jessicajhill says:

      Haha, thanks Emily! I think between the two of us, we could master nearly every cuisine possible. We should probably do a foodie tour of Fort Collins. Just sayin.

  4. Hi Jessica,

    I follow you on Twitter and I think Facebook as well.
    I just wanted to Welcome you back to the States. and also comment on your Sweet and Sour Chicken dish.
    I find it interesting how different this dish could be made. When I was on the West Coast, Sweet and Sour Chicken is made with Peppers, but on the East Coast ( NY ) there are no Peppers.

    Is your recipe from your Travels to Asia ? or just something you found on the internet ?

    Looks Delish..

    Thank you

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Mike. Thanks for all of the follows and for taking the time to comment. I found my recipe online, but even in doing so I found so many variations of dishes for sweet & sour chicken, so I ended up combing a few of them!

  5. Michelle says:

    that looks so GOOD! … wait, NO! IT LOOKS DELICIOUSLY GREAT!!! I am so proud of you! Been outta touch for a bit–but looking in this and past posts–you are coming quite along! Keep it up and have fun 🙂

  6. Aggy says:

    Looks delicious! I’m Asian, and probably can’t even cook as good as you, I completely salute you!

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