When I was a poor graduate student, the concept of a stir fry involved opening a bag of frozen vegetables into a pan, followed by the enclosed packet of gooey brown syrup that was poured on top. Heat through and serve over instant rice. Hmmm… I’ll admit that meal got me through another day, but it was certainly lacking! If I would have known how easy it is to make a delicious simple chicken stir fry recipe using both fresh vegetables and seasoning from scratch, you could have knocked me over with a mini wok pan! 🙂
Fast forward 10 years and oh how much I’ve been enlightened. I’m going to share with you my favorite chicken stir fry recipe that takes just a little longer than the pre-packaged kind, but will be better all around for numerous reasons. I found this recipe out of a beloved vegan cookbook. Wait a second… didn’t I say this was a chicken stir fry? Who says you can’t add a little meat to a vegan meal? In my opinion, vegan cooks know best how to season vegetables, grains and fruits and produce fantastic flavors, since these foods are often the focus of every meal. Today’s stir fry comes from Lindsay Nixon’s Happy Herbivore Abroad. Inspired by a trip overseas when she ate creamy mango custard, she created this delicious Thai mango curry. I started making it a year ago and have never looked back. This gal is good.
Here are my adaptations:
Instead of being a vegan meal, I’m adding chicken breasts
Instead of a meal that serves only 2, I have changed the ratios to serve 4
Instead of minced fresh ginger, I’m using dried ginger
Lindsay uses only water in her saute’s. I’m going to use some oil.
Behold, a most delicious and simple chicken stir-fry from round the world. Even my one-year old loves it. I think her tastes are more refined then mine were in college!
Here are the ingredients. You’ll need chicken breasts equal to 1 pound, one bunch green onions, 2 bell peppers (any color but green), 1 mango, 4 garlic cloves, dried ginger, soy sauce, coconut milk (in a can) and some sweet red chili sauce. With the exception of the coconut milk and red chili sauce, all other ingredients can be purchased at Aldi. Great taste doesn’t have to cost a fortune!
It’s not pictured, but you will want to serve this curry over a grain. I’m going to use cooked brown rice, but white rice or noodles would work fine too.
Though it’s not absolutely necessary, taking a few extra minutes to tenderize your chicken will do wonders. First, you will want to slice sideways through your chicken breasts to make them thinner.
Lay the severed breasts on a paper towel covered cutting board and place a piece of plastic wrap on top. Then hammer away! I’ve always thought it was funny how we “tenderize” our meat with heavy objects 🙂 The goal here is to break up the chicken fibers, forcing them to give way to a thinner, more soft meat. This should only take about 15 whacks unless you’ve had a really, really bad day.
Sprinkle each side of each chicken piece with some dried ginger (about 1 tsp. total), pepper and a little salt. Then heat up some oil in a wok pan or large, deep skillet. When the oil is hot, place those tenderized, seasoned chickies in there. Let them cook on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Then flip over for another two minutes. You will see a nice browning!
Then, place a lid on them, turn off the heat, and let them rest about 5 minutes. This will finish cooking them most or all of the way depending on the thickness of your chicken. It’s ok if after 5 minutes, they are still a little pink on the inside. We will put them back in the curry to finish cooking at the end. For now, take them out and set them aside.
Slice up your bell peppers, chop up your green onions (minus the hairy top!) and mince those garlic cloves. Be sure not to substitute white onions for the green ones. This dish requires the taste and color that only green onions offer.
Using your chicken juices at the bottom of the pan, turn your heat back up to medium. Cook up the peppers, onions and garlic for about 5 minutes until glistening and tender.
Now comes the star of the show… mango! If you’ve never cooked with mango before, fear not. They are actually very accommodating and produce a nice amount of fruit. The most important thing is to make sure your mango leaves a soft indentation when you press it. This is how you know it is ready to peel. If you don’t know how to peel one, there are some excellent online videos to show you. In this picture, that top left elongated piece is the pit, which you can’t use. But I got a good amount of mango slices. I divided them in half – one pile has nicely shaped slices and the other not so nice ones.
Stir fry is typically a one pan meal, but what I love about Lindsay’s recipe is that she uses half the mango fruit as a puree. This puree, along with the coconut cream, will help create a rich thickener for the sauce. (No cornstarch needed here, baby!) I took the pile of fruit that was not so nicely sliced and pureed it in my blender. If you don’t want to clean another device, you can also mash them up with a fork until mushy.
Almost done! Turn your heat up to medium. In your pan of peppers and onions, add your mango puree, chopped mango slices, cut up chicken, 2 Tablespoons red chili sauce, ½ Tablespoon soy sauce and only half the can of coconut milk. If your can of milk has stubborn separation between cream and liquid, scoop out half the cream and half the liquid, but don’t discard that other half! Have you ever tried whipped coconut cream on pie? Delicious, my friends.
Give it all a stir and let it simmer. At this point, humans will be walking into your kitchen to see where that wonderful smell is coming from!
After about 5 minutes of simmering, this is what you will have – a colorful and flavorful sauce that is perfect in thickness. Give it a taste and if you’d like more heat, add more chili sauce or hot sauce. If you’d like it saltier, add more soy sauce. Garnish with some fresh cilantro and serve it immediately over rice or noodles OR turn the heat off and let the flavors of the sauce meld together until you are ready. Stir fry’s like this can actually be made ahead and re-heated in time for dinner. Easy!
There you have it…beautiful, delicious and simple chicken stir fry with a twist of Thailand. I hope you love it as much as we do!
Simple Chicken Stir Fry
- 16 oz. chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 red yellow or orange bell peppers
- 1 bunch green onions
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 mango
- 2 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- ½ Tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ can coconut milk
- If you have time, tenderize the chicken by slicing the breasts sideways.
- Lay the severed breasts on a paper towel covered cutting board and place a piece of plastic wrap on top. Give them about 15 good whacks with a heavy object.
- Sprinkle one side of each tenderized chicken piece with some dried ginger (about 1 tsp. total), pepper and a little salt.
- Heat up some oil in a wok pan or large, deep skillet. When the oil is hot, add the chicken.
- Cook the chicken on medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Then flip over for an additional 2 minutes.
- Next, place a lid on them, turn off the heat, and let them rest 5 minutes. Then set them aside.
- Slice up your 2 bell peppers, chop up your bunch green onions (minus the hairy top!) and mince the 4 garlic cloves.
- Using your chicken juices at the bottom of the pan, turn your heat back up to medium. Cook up the peppers, onions and garlic for another 5 minutes until glistening and tender.
- Cut up your mango fruit into slices and divide them in half – puree one half using a blender, food processor (or by hand) and chop up the other half.
- With the heat on medium, add your mango puree, chopped mango slices, cut up chicken, 2 Tablespoons red chili sauce, ½ Tablespoon soy sauce and half the can of coconut milk to your peppers and onions.
- Give it all a stir and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- If necessary, add more spice or salt depending on taste.
- Can garnish with some fresh cilantro and serve immediately over rice or noodles or set aside and re-heat later for dinner time.