Forkful's easy suppers: Chicken with Sichuan Beans
Tomorrow night is the eve of Chinese New Year, when Chinese families traditionally reunite for a huge feast, known as the lunar feast.
In Dublin, you can celebrate through the programme for the Chinese New Year Festival (dublinchinesenewyear.com), which includes tours of the city's Chinese food community, lectures on Chinese food and cookery classes.
This week, I'm sharing a soy roasted chicken served with what I'm calling 'Sichuan' beans, though I can't account for their absolute authenticity.
My 'Sichuan' beans are inspired by the famous stir-fried French beans with dried chilli at M&L Chinese Restaurant (mlchineserestaurant.com), which is just off O'Connell Street in Dublin.
It's a Sichuan restaurant, a cuisine from the south west of China that is associated with chilli and garlic.
Its French bean dish is heavily flavoured with both, but it's the crispy fried coating of the beans that make this such a sensational dish.
For my roasted chicken, I've used a simple soy-based marinade.
I've added lime which is more of a South East Asian staple but I like the citrus zing it brings to the chicken, particularly when the skins are roasted alongside the chicken.
For the green beans, I used whole-dried Bird's Eye Chillis as that's what I had in my pantry. But if you were being really authentic, you could seek out dried Chinese chilli peppers from one of the fantastic Asian food markets across the country.
My green bean recipe doesn't match the culinary heights of M&L's version but it's still a tasty and super speedy side dish.
You'll have to pop in and try the original for yourself, perhaps as a way to celebrate Chinese New Year and to find out more about Sichuan food.
Chicken with Sichuan Beans
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
2 chicken breasts on the bone
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of finely diced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 head of garlic
1 small cup of white rice
For the beans
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon of whole dried chillis, chopped into chunks
300g of fine green beans
3 cloves of garlic, finely grated
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Place the chicken into a roasting dish. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, finely diced ginger and sugar. Pour evenly over the chicken. Slice the head of garlic in half and place around the chicken. Slice the lime into quarters and squeeze the juice over the chicken, before placing the lime skins around the chicken. Season with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through.
2. Rinsing your cup of rice under cold water. Drain and place in a saucepan. Cover with two cups of water (you want double the amount of water as rice). Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the rice is cooked through.
3. When your chicken and rice are nearly ready, you can begin making your fried green beans. Heat the sesame oil in a large wok or frying pan over a high heat. Add the pieces of dried chillis to the hot oil and let them sizzle and rehydrate for a couple of minutes. Turn down the heat slightly and add the green beans and fry for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until they start to get crispy. You can add another glug of sesame oil if the pan is looking a little dry. Add the finely grated garlic into the pan and stir-fry for another 3 minutes or until the garlic is cooked but not burnt.
4. Serve the chicken and rice alongside the green beans, with some extra soy sauce on the side.
This week's storecupboard essential:
Chinese chilli peppers: If you're in Dublin, head to the Asia Market on Drury Street to stock your pantry with Chinese chilli peppers and Sichuan peppercorns. As well as Chinese ingredients, this brilliant grocery store is packed with Japanese, Thai and Indian store cupboard essentials. (asiamarket.ie)