Chicken Lo Mein

Chicken Lo Mein

One of my kids got a magic kit at the toy store today while they were getting a present for their friend’s birthday and I’m really sad to say it doesn’t have any tricks about eating all your goddamn food in it. Does anyone know if someone makes a kit like that? If so, please, for the love of god send it to me.

I was perusing the usual cooking periodicals at the supermarket the other day and saw a “chicken and noodles” dish in the latest copy of Bon Appetit that looked good. Usually my oldest kid will eat any thing that is “chinese” and has chicken and celery in it (mostly American style Kung Pao Chicken), so I said to myself “sure fire fucking winner — goddamn noodle chicken dinner!” It’s a far way from when they were younger and ate only chicken nuggets, bagels, wood-fired pizza (so help me fucking god, WOOD FIRED FUCKING PIZZA), banana bread and applesauce from a green packet. And may the devil have room for you in hell if you fucking squeezed it out of that packet or it didn’t even originate in a packet.

But wait, I was talking about chinese food and not raising a picky Brooklyn hipster baby.

I’ll mostly also use any excuse to take out my wok and turn that middle burner on my stove up to max and my hood fan up to max vac. (Free band name there: max vac. You’d certainly have to suck!) I started off by reading the recipe and making sure I had the vegetables it called for. And since my partner already ate the one chicken thigh I can get her to eat a month last night (I didn’t feel like blogging about that meal because it was even too non-photogenic for me) I ditched the thighs and used chicken breast. However, since that shit will dry out faster than my humor, I velveted it, which is to say I made a marinade of egg white, cornstarch, soy sauce, shaoxing wine and black vinegar and let the cubed chicken hang out in it. (Side note: you really should have black vinegar and shaoxing wine in your house. They’re surprisingly easy to find, especially on this world-wide-fucking-web.)

mise en place

That mis is in motherfucking place

While that was hanging out I stirred together a little sauce made up of the same ingredients, minus the cornstarch and egg whites, but I added some toasted sesame oil to it and a touch of sugar and then went to town on cutting up some vegetables: napa cabbage, carrots, celery, scallions, a few fresno chilis, garlic and ginger. I separated out the scallion whites from the greens, and set the greens aside. After that I put the lo mein noodles I got from the store in some hot water to soften, and started getting the wok hot.

Once all that was done it was WOKING TIME!

chicken in a wok

The real trick to a wok is to ensure you got everything ready to go before you start because once you get that thing hot, you’re in the zone and there’s no stopping. You gotta go to the bathroom? Fuck you, hold it. The one way valve between your bladder and your urethra gonna get stuck closed because it only opens in towards your bladder? Maybe you should have fucking thought about that before you drank all the water in California. (One day I’ll tell you why I know that fun fact!)

Of course this is all a bit of hyperbole — your home range ain’t getting that hot so calm your fucking wild ass right down. You don’t really want to stop once you’re going, but there’s gonna be a lot of “put in this food and then take it out and then put in another” so you’ve got time to pause. And since the wok is so thin it’s gonna heat right back up if you need it to.

Generally when I’m using my wok I follow this order:

  1. Meat
  2. Hard vege
  3. Aromatics
  4. Sauce

I’ll add a bit of vegetable oil, get it up to where it’s starting to smoke and add the meat and let it sit for a minute until it gets a good bit of color, then stir it gently, and let it sit again. Go a few times until its mostly cooked, and then take it out and put it in a clean bowl. Wipe down the wok (if you need to), add a little bit more oil, and then the vege. Again, let it sit for a minute between tosses. See the problem with our pathetic stoves is that they just don’t get as hot as a commercial wok burner would, so you don’t need to stir it like crazy. Just give it some gentle love. Once the vege are done, take ’em out again, put in a little more oil, and in with the aromatics (ginger, garlic, scallion whites, etc) for a few minutes, and then everything goes back in. Take the sauce and pour it around the outside and toss everything to combine.

lo mein in a bowl

When it’s all done scatter the scallions and sesame seeds over the top and chow down. Unless you’re one of my kids. Then one of you will eat the chicken like “WOW DAD THIS IS THE BEST CHICKEN” and ignore the noodles and vegetables (which is richly ironic given they’ll eat pasta any day, any time, even if they’re full). If you’re the other one you’ll nibble on the edge of a piece of chicken and then ask if they can have toast instead.

Sometimes you gotta ask why you even bother?

At least tomorrow night is pizza delivery.