Lemon Chicken with Vegetable Chow Mein

Lemon Chicken with Vegetable Chow Mein

Let me tell you a bit of a story… I used to have a favorite Chinese restaurant and at this restaurant they served a variety of your typical Chinese take out dishes but also some incredible Indian food and a fusion of everything in between. Now this restaurant is basically located a world away from us as we live in Abbotsford and it’s in Surrey about 50km away or so…. needless to say getting take-out is pretty much out of the question.

Every year around my birthday I get asked where I’d like to eat out. Usually this is done not only to celebrate my birthday but also to facilitate a meeting of family all of whom are scattered about here and there in the Lower Mainland near Vancouver.  Having been introduced to this restaurant by a Sri-Lankan friend of mine as resident of Surrey in the early 2000’s, the place quickly became my new favorite Chinese restaurant and go-to for ‘ethnic’ cuisine. Naturally, we held family gatherings there at least once a year.

The food was always amazing and consistent. The dishes were spectacularly presented; served with an abundance of brightly colored vegetables and meticulously garnished. The vast and seemingly endless array of menu items, each with a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors, always left us something to talk about and look forward to again the next time. My most talked about dish? Chilli fish.

Until something happened. It had been a couple years since Kim and I had been there but the cravings were still strong. I often spoke of going there, but the idea always seemed so far off because of where we live… but at that particular point in time we were hungry, and passing close by on our way home from Vancouver. Now normally this place is packed full to the brim on a Friday night but when we arrived we were greeted by an unusually empty parking lot. Similarly, the dining room was nearly as empty. Being only a party of two Kim and I decided to order just three dishes, settling on a few of our favorites… chilli fish, lemon chicken, and beef chow mein.

The chilli fish was always amazing. Small bite-sized pieces of fish, deep-fried, tossed in a tangy sweet sauce , served Szechuan style sweat-inducingly hot, with an abundance of fresh chillies. This time it may have well been called ‘fish’ because there was a curious absence of any chillies, and as such the flavors fell flat and were not well balanced. Granted, I get that we are a couple of ladies and I didn’t specifically tell them I want it ‘Thai spicy!’ but when we sit down and very purposefully order ‘Chilli Fish’ you’d think we know what we want to eat.

Now up was the lemon chicken. A great looking dish, pleasantly marinaded and deep fried chicken served with a fresh lemon sauce and garnished with lemon slices, sesame seeds, and chives. It was okay but not quite what I remember.

Next arrived the beef chow mein. Now this stuff is usually the food of the gods and a visual treat but this time there was an overwhelming amount of onions. It’s like they put nearly a whole medium sized onion in this dish… underlying that, however, was a distinctly odd, old taste, and not in a good way. I was trying to work out exactly what item was responsible for this speculating it was the noodles, or beef, but didn’t get very far into that due to it being disgustingly bad. This dish was basically inedible and at the cost of $13.95  we figured instead of throwing it out we’d let the chef know politely on our way out and give the food to the dogs when we got home. We don’t normally let anyone attempt to make a dish again for us after having received even worse food back again the second time, but after mentioning that we are normally big fans of the food and there was something different about the chow mein this time as we were walking out the door the waiter insisted that we wait a moment for them to make it better. And we trusted them. We reluctantly stayed for another few minutes until the dish was made for us fresh again and put in a take-out dish.  We thought… what could we have to lose?  this dish was going to be for the dogs.

When we got home we were greeted with the usual sounds of affection! Three Corgi crosses with stubby legs and a Jack Russell Terrier… all hungry from being at home alone all day. We are thinking about how exciting it will be to share the beef chow mein with them! First, though, we figured we should try the new dish to see what it tastes like (and pick out the onions.) Opening the container, though, we are greeted with… even more onions?! Scraping our way through the dish to the actual chow mein-y bits yielded us an even lesser reward. The onions have been mixed all through! Probably in an attempt to cover up the bad taste. Yep, when we try the actual chow mein it has the same dank, disgustingly old flavour although now it has been fully and completely permeated with an overwhelming raw onion flavor. The dish reeks…

As the dogs and our excitement quickly fades, the revised beef chow mein, unsalvageable and inedible even to our dogs, was reluctantly and surreptitiously hucked into the trash.

TLDR; Restaurant changed hands/recipes but retained same menu and name. The food is now nothing like it used to be.

And so the pining and lamenting about my old favorite Chinese restaurant begins… but the cravings are still very real. Perhaps the only way I’ll get over them is to recreate their dishes!!

Here’s my take on their lemon chicken and their old vegetable chow mein! Enjoy the photos and recipe below!

 

Quick Pickled Onions

Fresh Ginger Garlic for Chow Mein

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Celery for Chow Mein

Spring Onions

Selecting Cilantro

Chicken Marinade

Corn Starch Batter

Frying the Chicken

Ginger Garlic for Chow Mein

Adding Chow Mein Noodles

Adding Soya Sauce and Beef Stock

Adding Celery, Carrot, and Broccoli

Adding the Quick Pickled Onion

Thickening up the Lemon Sauce

Chicken After Deep Frying

Finished Lemon Chicken and Vegetable Chow Mein

Serving up Lemon Chicken and Vegetable Chow Mein

Finished Lemon Chicken

 

Chinese Take-Out Style Lemon Sauce

 

2 large lemons, juiced and zested or about 2/3 cup juice and zest

(optional) 1 lemon, sliced.

nearly one cup sugar

2 cups chicken or beef stock (as pictured above)

1/3 cup corn starch

1/3 cup cold water

 

Bring two cups stock and sugar nearly to a boil. Add lemon juice and zest (optionally, half the sliced lemon.) Add water to corn starch to make a slurry then add to lemon sauce. Stir until thickened then then remove from heat. Serve food immediately garnished with remaining lemon slices.

 

Chicken Coating

 

3/4 cup corn starch

1/3 tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

 

Thoroughly mix together ingredients. Marinade and/or dip chicken pieces in an egg mixture before coating with this. Deep fry dredged pieces as soon as possible at 350 degrees F until golden brown.

 

Chinese Style Marinade for Chicken

 

2 large skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 extra large egg, beaten

2 tblsp Shoaxing cooking wine

1 tblsp dark soy sauce

1 tblsp sesame oil

 

Mix all ingredients together. Marinade chicken pieces for about half an hour.

 

Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower Curry)

Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower Curry)

This is a simple dish most commonly served with rice or flatbreads in many home kitchens here in and around Vancouver, Canada. It comes together in just a few minutes and after a bit of steaming to cook everything through it’s all done! Total time to eat: about 25 minutes including the rice. Enjoy the photos and recipe below!

 

Cauliflower

Potato

The Spice Blend

Dad's Chillies

Adding Cumin and Mustard Seeds

Adding Shallots

Add Ginger Garlic and Peppers

Adding Tomato Paste

The Spices and Aromatics

Adding Cauliflower

Add Potato

Stirring up the Vegetables

Finished Aloo Gobi

Aloo Gobi

 

2 tblsp butter or ghee

2 tblsp canola oil

1 small head cauliflower, in florets

2 potatoes, cubed

pinch cumin seed

pinch yellow mustard seed

1 small onion or shallot, minced

2 tblsp grated ginger

2 tblsp minced garlic

2 tsp fresh grated turmeric

pinch garam masala

2 Serrano chillies or 1 Thai chile

2 tblsp tomato paste

1/2 lemon or lime (garnish)

salt to taste

 

Heat butter and oil over medium-high heat until it just about reaches smoke point. Drop in cumin seeds they should sputter and pop. Add mustard seed and chillies and stir. Add ginger, garlic, and fresh turmeric and stir. Cook for 20-30 seconds then add onions or shallots. Cook until slightly translucent about one to two minutes. Add tomato paste and garam masala and mix well. Add cauliflower and potatoes and mix well. Reduce heat to low and steam for fifteen – twenty minutes until veggies are cooked through. Dress with juice from a whole lime or serve with a lemon or lime wedge. Enjoy!

Burrito Making Day

Burrito Making Day

Today we are making burritos that can be frozen and reheated for quick and easy meals. To keep the workload down we are using store bought flour tortillas at the cost of about 40  cents each. To make the beans we started with about three cups of black-eye peas and pressure cooked them in chicken stock concentrate and tomato paste for 25 minutes. When the pressure dropped we mashed them with a potato masher, leaving some chunky bits for texture. After removing from the pressure cooker we had about five pounds of beans.

 

Beans for Burritos

 

Next up was the beef filling. Beef is expensive these days so two pounds cost ten dollars even. We seasoned the beef heavily with a mixture of salt, chile flakes, homegrown dried paprika and smoked bell pepper powder, fresh garlic, fresh onion, oregano, cumin powder, and chile powder… Our cajun/taco seasoning mix.

 

Two Pounds Ground Beef

Home Grown Dried Chillies

Home Grown Chile Powder

Finished Taco Beef Filling

 

Next up was the rice. Two cups rice cooked in some chicken stock and water. We used tomato puree, bit of onion, bell peppers, and finished with cilantro and a bit of white wine vinegar to make it more interesting. A bit of chopped mushroom fell in there apparently but that wasn’t my intention.

 

Making Spanish Rice

Finished Spanish Rice for Burritos

Next up was some pulled duck legs/thighs taco style done in the pressure cooker… no pictures of the making of these but they were delicious and fall-apart tender after just twenty five minutes.

 

Pulled Duck, Taco Style

After quick-pickling some diced red onion, chopping up some cilantro stems and green peppers, and grating some cheese, my station was ready for burrito assembly!

Ready for Burrito Assembly

Assembling Burritos

Weighing Burritos

Assembling Burritos

Assembling Burritos

Beef and Bean, Bean and Cheese Burritos

Assembling Burritos

Assembling Burritos

Finished Pile of Burritos

Finished Pile of Burritos

Burrito Ready to Eat!

Yield was 20 burritos and the cost was just over $1 Canadian each. These will last us a few weeks for sure!

 

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Our first attempt at making Chinese BBQ pork has been a long time in the making… It took us almost a year to source all the ingredients and many hours of research to come up with an approximate recipe. Not all Chinese restaurants offer BBQ pork and duck so you may have to shop around if you want to sample this amazing food!  This recipe is truly delicious but next time we will make the marinade sweeter, add more red bean curd, and intensify the smoking. Enjoy the photos!

 

Char Siu Ingredients

Wang Zhihe Fermented Bean Curd

Wang Zhihe Fermented Bean Curd

Five Spice Powder Ingredients

Char Siu Ingredients

Making Char Siu Marinade 1

Making Char Siu Marinade 2

Making Char Siu Marinade 3

Making Char Siu Marinade 4

Making Char Siu Marinade 5

Making Char Siu Marinade 6

Making Char Siu Marinade 7

Making Char Siu Marinade 8

Finished Char Siu Marinade

Pork Should Chops

Adding Char Siu Marinade to Bag

Adding Char Siu Marinade to Bag

Marinating Char Siu

Marinated Char Siu

Skewering Char Siu

Char Siu Ready for the Smoker!

Char Siu on the Smoker

Finished Char Siu

Char SIu Chopped Up

Finished Char Siu Chow Mein

 

 Char Siu Marinade (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Pork Shoulder chops cut into strips

Light Soy Sauce

Dark Soy Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Chinese Shoahsing Rice Wine

Wangzhihe Fermented Red Bean Curd

Honey

Sesame Oil

Chinese Five Spice Powder

Ginger

Garlic

Mix Ingredients together and marinade overnight. Cook over a charcoal fire or use a smoker set to 300 degrees F. Enjoy!

 

 

Taco Night

Taco Night

We eat tacos at least a couple times a month and make everything from scratch. The corn tortillas are made from masa and we decided to finish these in the oven. Sorry for the dark photos… it was nighttime! Enjoy!

 

Start with Corn Tortillas

Adding Seasoned Beef

Adding Diced Pickled Onion

Adding Tomato

Delicious Tacos Coming Together

Adding Cheese to Tacos

Adding Cheese to Tacos

Taco Bake out of the Oven

FInished Taco Bake

Finished Taco Bake