Chicken Chow Mein has a very spotty reputation. It’s been years since I’ve had any, but from what I remembered, the chicken tended to be rubbery, and the vegetables and noodles were always overcooked. One night I happened to catch an episode of America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Country on the local PBS station where they were making this dish. The Cooks Country presentation assured the viewer that this would not occur. I’m here to tell you that it didn’t.
In fact the Chicken Chow Mein I made for tonight’s dinner was absolutely incredible.
Ingredients for the Chicken Chow Mein:
The ingredients included Chinese noodles, sesame oil, baking soda, boneless and skinless chicken breasts, dry sherry, cornstarch, chicken broth, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vegetable oil, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, celery, green onions, garlic, fresh ginger and bean sprouts. I know that it sounds like a lot of ingredients, but it actually comes together very quickly once everything is prepped.
To start the prep I cut the chicken crosswise into ¼-inch slices. To ensure that the chicken was tender I mixed it with a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in ½ cup of cold water and let it sit for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes I drained the chicken, rinsed it under cold water, drained it again, and patted it dry with paper towels. I then added the chicken to a mixture of 1 Tablespoon of dry sherry mixed with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
Turning my attention to the vegetables: the only shiitake mushrooms that I could find were dried, so I first reconstituted them by cooking them in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Then I drained and patted the mushrooms dry before stemming them and cutting them into thin slices. I cut the peeled the carrot into 2-inch matchstick pieces, and the celery on the bias into ¼-inch slices. I separated the green onions into the white and green parts, and cut each into thin slices. I minced the garlic and grated the fresh ginger. I didn’t need to do anything to the bean sprouts except to have them ready. Finally I made the sauce by whisking together the chicken broth, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, remaining dry sherry and remaining cornstarch. Because the actual cooking time of the chicken and vegetables is less than 10 minutes, I lined up the ingredients in the order to be used!
Before starting the cooking of the chicken and vegetables, I cooked the Chinese noodles according to the package instructions, which took about 3 minutes. I drained the noodles, rinsed them thoroughly in cold water, allowed them to drain, returned them to the pan, and tossed them in sesame oil. These are added at the end of the cooking of the chicken and vegetables, so I set them aside.
Cooking Chicken Chow Mein:
Now comes the cooking of the chicken and vegetables. According to America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Country, it’s better to use a large skillet than a wok for cooking something such as this. I actually think that a flat-bottomed wok would have been better. I used a 12-inch non-stick skillet in which I heated vegetable oil over medium high heat until almost smoking.
I added the chicken and cooked it, stirring frequently until it was opaque. This took about 2 minutes. Next, I added the mushrooms and carrots, and continued cooking over medium heat for about 2 more minutes. Then I added the celery which I cooked on medium high heat for about 1 minute. Before adding the white parts of the green onion, garlic and ginger, I cleared a place in the middle of the pan so that they could come in contact with the bottom of the hot pan, and then dumped them in. After 30 seconds, the garlic and ginger were fragrant, so I added the sauce that I first whisked to recombine. Next, after about 2 minutes, the sauce had thickened, so I added the bean sprouts and the cooked noodles.
I tossed to combine all ingredients and cooked for 1 more minute. I finished the Chicken Chow Mein off with a garnish of the chopped green onion tops.
All I can say is that this is this Chicken Chow Mein is an incredible dish. It makes a lot, so dinner tomorrow will be leftovers. In honor of that occasion, I made some Egg Rolls to go along with the leftovers. Yum!
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Chicken Chow Mein (adapted from Cook's Country)
- 8 ounce package dried Chinese noodles
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices
- 3 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry, divided
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, divided
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
- 2 celery ribs, cut on bias into ¼-inch-thick slices
- 4 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 4 ounces (2 cups) mung bean sprouts
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender, 3 minutes. Drain noodles, rinse thoroughly with cold water, then drain again. Toss noodles with sesame oil in bowl; set aside.
- Meanwhile, dissolve baking soda in 1/2 cup cold water in second bowl. Add chicken and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Drain chicken, rinse under cold water, then drain again. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine 1 Tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and chicken in bowl; set aside.
- Whisk chicken broth, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, remaining 2 Tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry, and remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch together in bowl; set aside.
- Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until opaque, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add celery and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Add scallion whites, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Whisk broth mixture to recombine, then add to skillet and cook until thickened and chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add bean sprouts and noodles and toss until sauce evenly coats noodles, about 1 minute. Transfer to platter and sprinkle with scallion greens. Serve.
- Yield: 6 servings.