Sunday, May 9, 2010

That wasn't what I intended

One of my favorite restuarants in the world, Cafe Trang in Salt Lake City used to serve a ginger chicken in a caramel sauce, with lots of black pepper. I never tried to duplicate it, but I did try for a couple years to make an apricot-ginger chicken, but I never got the balance quite right.

This week, I tried for a ginger chicken with tea. I see tea-smoked and tea-marinated things on restaurants all the time. So I thought I'd give it a shot.

I started with some chicken breasts, which I pounded to about 3/4 of an inch with a meat tenderizer. Next, I grated some fresh ginger, About an inch, which gives me about a tablespoon of grated rhizome.

As I pause and reflect, I think I should have marinated, but this was a purely improv evening, and I was hungry.

I put about three tablespoons olive oil in a pan on medium heat, and added the ginger, hoping to infuse the flavor of the ginger into the oil. When the oil was hot (but not smoking. Listen for the sizzle. Or put a drop of water into it, when it jumps around, it's hot enough) I added the chicken.

While the chicken was cooking, I chopped three green onions and set them aside. After about five minutes, I turned the chicken over and added four ounces of black tea and approximately three quarters of a cup of dried mushrooms, followed by a quick dash of soy sauce (I'm guessing about 1.5 tablespoons).

I cooked the chicken for another six minutes, then turned it back over and cooked it for another minute, finally throwing in the green onions. I then thanked the wonderful people at Trader Joe's for making heat&eat fried rice and made good use of my microwave

The chicken was not gingery, not by a long shot, but it was deliciously full of mushroom flavor, underscored by tea. The tea in this case was actually Irish Breakfast (I'm out of oolong). The green onions added a nice counterpart, and I definitely made the right decision in only cooking them for about sixty seconds.

Anyone have a favorite wing-it recipe? Or even better, what would you have done with this one? I'm not above a little more deconstruction. Hit me with your best shot.


  1. Don't grate the ginger unless you're adding it late. For early in the cooking process ginger, slice it into thin coins, or if you like eating ginger, julienne it.

    I'd steep the dried mushrooms and dried tea leaves in some liquid. And I'd use oolong tea. What kind of mushrooms, btw? I'd use a mix of shiitakes and wood ears, for texture.

  2. Very useful info. Thank you so much for commenting. The mushrooms were a combination of oyster, enoki and shitake.

    Oolong is on the shopping list.

  3. In my kitchen, ginger is a vegetable rather than an aromatic. ;)

    The mushroom combo sounds delicious. I like slicing green onions for last minute addition on the extreme bias, btw. So that slices are about 2mm wide by 15mm long. Call it 1/16-1/8" by 1 1/2". If I add them earlier in the process to get cooked, I cut them into 1 1/2 to 2" long, straight across, and then split down the line, so that they are like little pieces of tape.