Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Childhood Favorite, Mandarin Fried Chicken

I went searching in my previous posts and was surprised that I had not blogged on my childhood favorite, mandarin fried chicken.  Back when I was a toothpick, I ate various fried items from my parents' restaurant with reckless abandon.  I was quite adept at manning the deep fryer, and this was one of the dishes I was most eager to learn how to make.  


Deep frying at home is a challenge.  Maintaining consistent heat of the oil produces the best outcome.  Unless you have a commercial fryer in your home, the only way to achieve frying perfection, is to work in small batches.  I am usually too impatient for this, and many times it is not practical when trying to serve your meal to more than one person at a time.  


For my mandarin fried chicken, I par fry the chicken in smaller batches.  I then finish by reheating the oil to temp and frying all the chicken until crisp.  This is still not the optimal method since the copious amount of mandarin chicken we go through pushes my pot of oil to over capacity.  But it's the best method I've come up with so far.  There was just no room for an in counter, commercial fryer in our kitchen.


Now, let's talk about the batter.   Lately, I've been using Hime Tempura Powder, a recommendation from my mom.  I usually do just an ice cold water, flour mixture of my own.  But my mom said Hime is what she's been using.  Good enough for me!  She also says to stir the batter in only one direction, so I use that method as well.  


Cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Put them in your batter, mix and par fry in small batches.  I fry with the oil at 350f in a large iron pot.  I also have a basket fryer, but because of the batter, I use the pot.  When you drop the chicken pieces in the oil, they will tend to stick to each other.  You have to stir and toss them to break them apart before they become one large grouping of chicken.  Fry to light golden yellow.  When you are done with the batches, make sure the oil is back to 350f and fry the chicken until golden and crispy.  Drain on paper towels before tossing into the sauce.


In my wok over medium high heat, I fried chopped garlic, a little minced ginger, sugar, soy, rice wine vinegar, a bit of sesame oil, a little water and some ground white pepper.  Bring to a boil and thicken a little with a mixture of corn starch and water.  Add the chicken and some sliced scallions and toss just a couple of times to coat with the sauce.  Serve immediately.


I don't know if it's as good as my childhood, but we all pop them in our mouths like chicken bonbons.

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It's been almost three years since I first wrote this post, and thought I should include a more detailed listing of the recipe, lest my kids curse me in future years.
Ice cold water and all purpose flour works just fine.  Make a batter that has the consistency of melted ice cream, or just a bit thicker.  
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon of finely minced ginger
combine these:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
freshly ground pepper to taste
ground white pepper to taste

To be added at the end:
2 scallions finely sliced
thickening agent of corn starch and water, made to the consistency of heavy cream

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large wok.  Add the garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant.  Add the combined ingredients and let simmer for a minute or two.  
Use the corn starch and water mixture to thicken the sauce slightly.  Add a little at a time to gauge how thick the sauce becomes.  The sauce should also be the consistency of melted ice cream.
Toss in the chicken and then the scallions.  Toss the chicken in the sauce quickly and serve immediately.

Still one of my all time favorites!

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