“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.
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.
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
2 Chicken breasts, cut into strips
Chili powder and black pepper
Red pepper, sliced
Green pepper, sliced
2 red chilies
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
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
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