Originally created 02/26/03

Stir-fry dish brings China so close you can taste it



Last week our culinary travels took us to Thailand, and this week we're hopping to another Asian country - China.

Chinese food is wonderful for quick cooks. The trick is having all the ingredients chopped and ready to go before heating up the wok or skillet. This week's recipe doesn't require much chopping because I used the washed and cut broccoli florets found in the produce sections of most supermarkets.

I love the spicy foods from the Szechuan region, and with the help of prepared Szechuan sauce you can have a great Szechuan-flavored stir-fry in a flash. For people with more tame palates, look for other Chinese stir-fry sauces. I found several varieties, as well as a sweet-and-salty teriyaki glaze that works well.

Though I chose to prepare a chicken stir-fry, you can come up with many variations on the recipe. Sliced beef or pork work well, as do peeled and deveined shrimp. If you substitute shrimp, add it at the very end, when the broccoli is almost cooked, to avoid overcooking. You also can create a delicious meatless stir-fry with vegetables alone, or add cubes of tofu when you stir in the Szechuan sauce.

You also can improvise with the vegetables here. Soft vegetables such as mushrooms or eggplant are especially good in spicy Szechuan dishes. And you can substitute bean sprouts or bamboo shoots as crunchy alternatives to the water chestnuts.

I like to serve this dish with plain white rice and a garnish of chopped peanuts. Close your eyes, take a bite and you're in China - no passport or plane ticket required.

SZECHUAN CHICKEN

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into strips

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into strips

3 green onions, sliced diagonally

2 cups broccoli florets

1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained

1/3 cup Szechuan Spicy Stir Fry Sauce*

1/4 cup chopped peanuts, for garnish

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken strips and bell pepper and saute until chicken begins to brown. Add the green onions and broccoli florets and saute until broccoli is tender-crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water chestnuts and Szechuan sauce and stir 1 to 2 minutes, until hot, bubbly and chicken is completely cooked.

Makes 4 servings.

*House of Tsang Szechuan Spicy Stir Fry Sauce was used when testing this recipe.

Nutritional information per serving: 227 calories, 19.8 grams protein, 19.5 grams carbohydrates, 4.3 gram fiber, 8.8 gram fat, 1.4 gram saturated fat, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 827 milligrams sodium.

Note: The peanuts are included in the analysis.

Nutrition analysis provided by Fran Frye, a licensed and registered dietitian of the Augusta District Dietetic Association. Send questions via e-mail to augustadietitian@yahoo.com.

COMING March 5: Italian beef sandwiches

See Karin prepare the recipe at noon Tuesday on WJBF-TV (Channel 6).

Write to Karin Calloway in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903. Or send e-mail to karin.calloway@comcast.net. You can find previous Quick Cooking recipes through the online archive at augustachronicle.com/karin.