The pursuit of a healthy, low-cholesterol diet continues with some degree of success! We’re on the third week of our plan, and both Mr. Ganz and myself are settling in nicely to lighter dinners and more plant-based snacks.
I’ve come up with a little structure for our weekly menu planning that should help me keep the cholesterol levels in check: 1 vegetarian night, 1 vegan night, 2 nights of fish, 2 nights of lean protein, and 1 “Go Nuts, but please don’t go too nuts” night. I think a night of moderate self-congratulation can help us stay on target the rest of the week, and as we grow accustomed to our new menu style, hopefully we’ll crave some of the “bad” foods a little less. Fingers crossed.
For last night’s dinner, I was inspired by a favorite from my Roanoke days: “Hacked Chicken” or “Bang Bang Chicken” from Szechuan Restaurant. Mom and I were devoted to Szechuan. On a weekly basis, we’d stop in and load up on MSG and chili peppers until we were both too giddy to walk to the car.
I checked out their website, which boasts their status as Best Asian Restaurant since 1991, but I was heartbroken by what I found next – A new menu. My classic, authenticish Szechuan palace has succumbed to an icky pan-Asian trend (sushi! pad thai! all under one roof!) that I can only imagine results in cut-rate versions of EVERYTHING. And, alas, hacked chicken did not make the final..um..hack.
I vaguely remember this being the case from the last time I was in Roanoke, trying to relive all my formative food moments. My beloved peanut-y, cucumber-y Szechuan staple was nowhere to be found.
“Hacked chicken!? Do you have ‘hacked chicken’ or ‘bang bang chicken’ anymore?” I desperately asked a waiter.
::blink, blink:: “Oh yes, you want chicken with peanuts?!”
What came out was a hot mess of batter-fried chicken swimming in soy sauce and peanut butter, weirdly glazed peanuts and no cucumbers. If the original dish had been the Gene Wilder version, this was the Johnny Depp version.
Fortunately, I can still conjure the taste of my beloved chicken dish, the cool boiled chicken with a spicy peanut sauce over shredded cucumbers and iceberg lettuce (it has a few applications, after all.) And thanks to making a lifetime’s supply of peanut sauce at more than a few restaurants, I was able to piece together the following:
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Black Chinese Vinegar (you can use rice wine vinegar or regular ol’ white vinegar)
2 tablespoons Sambal (or a chili paste with sesame oil would be splendid)
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, minced
Water, as necessary
1 Cucumber, julienne
about 2 cups Lettuce, shredded
1 handful Scallions, thinly sliced
white rice, optional
Boil chicken breasts in salted water until cooked through (about 12 minutes.) Remove from water, and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sambal, sesame oil, and ginger. Stir well, and add water as necessary to create a consistency that is more ‘thick sauce’ than ‘paste.’ I kept tasting as I added the water, and would occasionally add another splash of soy sauce or vinegar as necessary.
Once the chicken has cooled, chop the hell out of it. “Hacked Chicken” doesn’t get its name from its gentle treatment. You’re looking for a rough dice. Then combine with sauce, and refrigerate for an hour or so…or over night. It’ll be all the better for it.
Serve with cucumber and lettuce, lightly salted, and some white rice. Garnish with scallions.