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Asian-inspired dishes kick dinner plans into high gear

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By David Kelly
Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
 

A delightful lady named Ms. Becker just loves to cook and enjoy her tasty treats.

Recently, she requested a recipe for a sweet-and-sour chicken in a white sauce. Most Asian restaurants add a flavoring ingredient that gives the sauce a red hue.

Know what that ingredient is? Ketchup!

You will be able to duplicate the flavors and keep the sauce clear by eliminating the ketchup and using white sugar instead of brown or dark brown. It is easiest to cook this in a wok; however, a deep fryer for the chicken and a large heavy sauté skillet can be used to produce a flavorful chicken dish.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

(serves four)

11/2to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, or boneless, skinless thigh meat cut up into one-inch pieces

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

dash of white pepper

1 green pepper, cored, seeded and cut into one-inch pieces

1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into one-inch pieces

1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into one-inch pieces (optional)

1/2cup all-purpose flour

1/2cup water

1/4cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2teaspoon salt

1/2teaspoon baking soda

11/4cups sugar

1 cup chicken broth

3/4cup white vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

1/2teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic finely chopped

1/4cup cornstarch

1/4cup cold water

1 can (81/4ounces) pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved

Mix the egg, one tablespoon cornstarch, two teaspoons light soy sauce, one teaspoon salt and the white pepper in a glass or plastic bowl. Stir in the chicken, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok and bring to a medium-hot temperature of 350 degrees. Mix the flour, 12 cup water, 14 cup cornstarch, one tablespoon vegetable oil, 12 teaspoon salt and the baking soda. Stir the chicken into the batter until well coated. Fry about 10 pieces at a time until light brown, about one minute, then drain on paper towels.

Heat the sugar, chicken broth, vinegar, one tablespoon vegetable oil, two teaspoons soy sauce, 12 teaspoon salt, and the garlic to boiling in a 2-quart saucepan. Mix 14 cup of cornstarch, reserved pineapple juice and 14 cup of water together and stir into the sauce. Cook until slightly thickened then add the peppers and onion and simmer until the vegetables are crisp yet tender. Bring back to a boil then add the chicken. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes then serve with a bowl of white rice..

•••

Here's a favorite sauce that can accompany just about any meat, poultry, fish or vegetable.

It's a staple in every Asian restaurant to be served with appetizers and main courses. This is easy to make and price wise it's much more economical to make than to purchase ready-made.

Plum Sweet and Sour Sauce

(makes 5 1 / 2 cups)

1 can (20-ounces) crushed pineapple in heavy syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons cold water

1 cup plum sauce or plum jam (orange marmalade can be substituted for the plum sauce)

Heat the pineapple with the syrup, sugar, one cup of water, the vinegar and soy sauce until boiling. Mix cornstarch with two tablespoons of water and stir into the pineapple mixture. Heat until boiling, stirring constantly.

When thickened, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature and then stir in the plum sauce. Cover and refrigerate.

Serve with appetizers and main courses at room temperature or slightly chilled.

•••

Here's a special recipe for Ms. Becker, one that's usually at the top of the menu because it's a perennial favorite. It is light, tasty and refreshing!

Shrimp Toast

(makes about 20 appetizers)

1/2pound fresh or frozen raw shrimp

1/2cup chopped green onions with tops

1/4cup all-purpose flour

1/4cup water

1 egg

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1/4teaspoon sugar

1/4teaspoon sesame oil

dash of white pepper

vegetable oil

5 slices white bread

Defrost the shrimp if frozen. Peel and devein the shrimp, removing the tails. Cut the shrimp lengthwise into halves, then cut crosswise into halves.

Mix the shrimp, green onions, flour, water, egg, cornstarch, salt sugar, sesame oil and white pepper together in a bowl.

Heat the vegetable oil, about 1 12 inches in a wok to a temperature of 350 degrees. Remove the crusts from the bread slices. Cut each slice into four squares. Place one to two shrimp with sauce on each bread slice.

Fry about five slices at a time until golden brown, turning frequently, about two minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with hot mustard and sweet plum sauce.

My friends and especially Ms. Becker, as always, enjoy!

David Kelly has been a chef for more than 40 years and has been sharing recipes and cooking tips in Culinary Corner for 21 years.

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