July 23, 2021
Last year the pandemic shut down my favorite Chinese restaurant. When it finally reopened, it was only for takeout. Little white boxes are great for fried rice, but anything crispy is ruined inside them. There was only one solution. I had to learn to make Chinese food.
Here I’ll give you the details on how to make Chinese chicken and bok choy in a traditional brown gravy, but there are lots of ways adapt this dish. I have substituted pork spare ribs for the chicken, which works really well. I even think this would work well with beef, though I haven’t tried that yet. For vegetables, you could use broccoli, snow peas, or my favorite, green beans. The method remains the same so feel free to mix things up to suit your tastes.
There are four components to this dish: aromatics, vegetables, meat, and gravy. We will discuss how to prepare each one and then blend them together for a better than takeout Chinese meal at home. Here’s a video of me making this recipe. Unfortunately the Portal I was using to film it misses the food a lot, but there is plenty of me talking about this recipe.
Aromatics: Most of the flavor for this dish comes from the aromatics. We use scallion, garlic, ginger, dry Thai chilis, and Szechuan peppercorns. All of these are going to be prepared and then combined in a bowl until we are ready to cook. Chop the green parts of four scallions into one inch lengths and the white parts into half inch lengths. Finely slice two medium garlic cloves. Peel a two inch piece of ginger and bash it with a meat tenderizer or a frying pan. Then chop it. Break up two dry Thai chilis. These can be very hot so if you don’t like spice maybe omit them. Finally, add a quarter of a teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorns. If you can’t find them you can skip them or use black pepper, but I really like the flavor this gives. If you have to, go on Amazon and buy a bag for eight bucks.
Vegetables: Chose your vegetable. We are going with baby bok choy, but if you want to use something else, just make sure you cook them and dry them. They are only going to be in the pan for two or three minutes so all the cooking needs to be done in advance. You also want to make sure they are not too wet when they go into the pan or they will stop your gravy from thickening and you will end up with a watery dish.
Baby bok choy or Shanghai bok choy will work best for this dish. You need to wash bok choy very well. A lot of dirt gets down in between the shoots. Cut the leaves off just above the stem. Then slightly trim the base of the stem and quarter it. Steam the quartered stem for four to five minutes and then set aside. Do not cook the leaves. We will add them later and if you cook them now they will wilt away to nothing. Now let the vegetables rest while you make your meat.
Meat: Cut one pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs into bite-sized portions. I don’t suggest using breast meat. It is more expensive, less flavorful, and has a tendency to dry out. Sprinkle it with a little salt and three tablespoons of cornstarch. The cornstarch is going to help achieve a crispy exterior. Mix the chicken well so that it is evenly coated. Add a half of a cup of canola oil to a dutch oven or a wide frying pan. Fry the chicken in batches over medium heat until golden brown, about four or five minutes per side. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and place it on a paper towel to drain.
Gravy: This gravy is extremely easy to make. You can whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl or you can shake them until they are combined in a tightly sealable container like a mason jar. Simply combine, two tablespoons of soy sauce, one tablespoon of oyster sauce, one tablespoon of cornstarch, one teaspoon of sugar, and five tablespoons of water.
Now we are ready to cook. This come together really fast so have all your ingredients close by along with tongs or something to keep things moving in the pan. In a wok or a deep frying pan add 2T of the oil you used to cook your chicken. Start by adding the aromatics, all of them, and sauté on high for a minute or two. You should just be starting to smell them. Now add the bok choy stems and cook for another two minutes. Add the brown gravy and cook for a minute. It will thicken quickly. If it gets too thick and sticks to the bottom add water, a tablespoon at a time until it loosens up. Last, add the chicken and the bok choy leaves. Stir until the leaves start to wilt. Then turn off the heat and transfer to a serving platter.
There you have it, better than take out Chinese chicken and bok choy. I hope you will give this recipe a try. If you do let me know. I’d love to know how it turned out. For more details watch the video above and for a more concise explanation, download the recipe card below. To see some variations on this dish, including chicken & green beans and pork & bok choy, take a look at these photos.