My mother used to make a lot of Asian food when we were growing up. Apparently there were next-to-no Asian restaurants in Cape Town (and I’m guessing South Africa) in the 80’s, so Asian ingredients and supplies were hard to come by. But after we returned from a year living in Hawaii, she was inspired and persevered in the face of this hardship. Sweet and Sour Pork, Thai curries, Egg-fried Rice, the works. And as a result, I have always loved Asian food, and I’m excellent – although unconventional in technique – with chopsticks. Honey Chilli Chicken is one of the Chinese staples from my childhood, and although this recipe isn’t the one my mother used (she claims she used bits and pieces from different recipes, cobbled together differently every time), it’s delicious. Sweet and slightly tart, with a bit of heat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and slices of spring onion (not seen here because I forgot to buy them) and you’ve got a fancy-looking platter for a dinner party.
Honey Chilli Chicken
500g chicken breast fillets, cubed
2 peppers (colours of your choosing), sliced
200g baby marrows, sliced
half an onion, sliced or cubed
200g mushrooms, sliced
1 tblsp soya sauce
2 tbslp cornflour
60ml lemon juice (fresh)
1 tsp light soya sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
4 tblsp honey
1-2 tsp chilli sauce or dried flakes
3 tblsp water
2.5 tsp cornflour
First, do the sauce. Dissolve the cornflour in water (so that there are no lumps) in a small saucepan, and then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Heat until boiling, and then simmer gently for a few minutes (you could be slicing the veggies while this happens). Done. Heat 2 tsps of oil in a wok, and add the veggies. Toss the veggies with a slotted spoon every minute or so until they are cooked through and the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove the veggies to a bowl or convenient receptacle.
Now here’s what I like to do: I like to add 3 tblsp of oil to the wok, and do the chicken in small batches so they get a delicious lightly-crispy outside. It’s worth the effort. Heat the oil, then add a quarter of the chicken cubes. Give them a minute to brown, then toss and give them another minute or two. Once they are browned on both sides, remove onto paper towel to drain. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked.
Arrange the veggies and chicken on a platter, and drizzle with a bit of the honey-chill sauce. I always use just a bit of the sauce initially, and then put the rest in a small Chinese-type bowl for people to add as they like. Because for some people, less is more, and for some people (me), more is more. Sprinkle sesame seeds and spring onion slices over the crispy chicken cubes, and serve with a bowl of jasmine rice, if desired.