There’s only a handful of food items that I really miss from the States.
Crispy bacon, good bagels with cream cheese, Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee and greasy Chinese food.
You can still get Chinese food here, obviously, but it’s not quite the same. Somehow they don’t really overload it with oil and grease and MSG and all other gross things like in America. Which is probably a good thing. No, definitely a good thing.
There were always certain occasions when I would get Chinese takeout back home. On lazy afternoons at boarding school we used to order delivery and eat our paper cartons of shrimp lo mein while sitting out on the grass. In New York City we used to order delivery when we were too lazy to leave the apartment and really didn’t want to have to brave the four floors of stairs in order to eat food. For $10 I usually got a big container of crispy fried rice accompanied by beef and broccoli. Then we’d also get egg rolls, sometimes they’d throw in some steamed dumplings. And at home with my parents Chinese takeout was usually called in when we were too lazy to cook. It would usually be a Sunday night and we’d all move into the television room and unpack all the savoury goodness onto the table, shrimp fried rice, Szechuan dumplings in spicy peanut sauce, steamed pork dumplings, spring rolls, golden nuggets, shrimp lo mein, sesame chicken, shrimp and chicken Thailand style (whatever that was), chow fun. There wasn’t really anything on that menu that I didn’t like, except the hot and sour soup. I was never fan of that one. I definitely miss those nights and more than anything I miss coming home the next day to see the leftovers still in the fridge ready to be made in to the ultimate afternoon snack.
The only real problem with that food is the awful way you feel as soon as you finish. While you’re eating and mopping up the sauce with your extra rice, dipping the spring rolls in that delicious sweet duck sauce, scraping for the last dumpling, you feel divine. And as soon as you’re done you feel the need to lie down and usually down a gallon of water from the sodium overload. That’s probably why we usually ate on the couch at home. But this isn’t the part I think about when I’m missing this breed of strange Chinese-American food, I miss the flavours, the convenience and the excuses we used to order it. Instead of going all out and trying to put myself in a sodium induced coma, I decided to satisfy my cravings with a healthier version. The chicken is lightly sauteed in oil instead of being deep fried and the sauce isn’t quite as sweet as usual leaving you with a filling, healthy meal. And I was still very excited to see the leftovers in the fridge the next day.
Lighter sesame chicken
- 3/4 cup brown rice
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed with a garlic press
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch chunks
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into large florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced
- Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, and fill with 1 inch water; set aside for broccoli. Cook rice according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, make sauce: In a small bowl, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and cornstarch. Add chicken; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken; cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and chicken. Return all the chicken to skillet; add reserved sauce and scallions, and toss to coat.
- Meanwhile, place saucepan with steamer basket over high heat; bring water to a boil. Add broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve sesame chicken with broccoli and rice.