Monday, August 21, 2006

General Tso's (Fake) Chicken

I admit it. Sometimes I use "fake meat" substitutes. They're quick, and easy and sometimes that's what I need. And I figure, as long as I don't use them every day, then its okay.

Meat substitutes, like the kind I used last night, can be a very divisive topic with vegetarians. Some vegetarians believe very strongly that cooking and eating meat substitutes goes against the principle of vegetarianism, or abstaining from eating meat. They think that if you are vegetarian, then you wouldn't want the taste of soy crumbles (another popular meat substitute) in your food. I understand that principle and idea, but the fact of the matter is vegetarian cooking can be quite time consuming. Vegetarian main dishes tend to involve many spices, ingredients and take a considerable time to cook (especially when using dried beans, grains etc). So, sometimes it is appealing to take a recipe written for meat (and therefore somewhat quicker in preparation) and substitute either tofu, tempeh or a store-bought meat subsitute. Its not something I do every day, but sometimes it adds something different to our menu.

The recipe I made tonight is an old favorite of ours. It is ... wait for it ... a Weight Watchers recipe (I seem to be on a Weight Watchers kick lately), but you wouldn't know it from the taste. The use of cornstarch again creates that thick, glossy mouthfeel found in most Chinese takeout. Like most stir-fry dishes, once the sauces are mixed the dish cooks and comes together quite quickly. I've made this dish successfully with tofu, as well as the fake chicken strips I used this evening.

Below you see the entire meal. On the upper right side of the plate, Japanese Grilled Eggplant. Lower right side has Stirfried Green Beans with Rice Wine Vinegar and Mirin. Lower left side has homemade vegetable dumplings, and in the top left corner is the General Tso's "Chicken".

General Tso's Chicken
Weight Watchers Take Out Tonight Cookbook
Serving Size: 4


1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into 1" pieces (I used fake chicken strips)
5 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus 2 teaspoons
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (I subbed hoisin sauce)
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 whole scallions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 whole red bell pepper, seeded and chopped


Combine the chicken, 2 tablespoons of the sherry, 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch, and the oyster sauce in a medium bowl, set aside to marinate for 5 minutes.

Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons sherry, the water, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and the remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.

heat a nonstick wok or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles. Swirl in the canola oil, then add the chicken mixture. Stir fry until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, scallions, and crushed red pepper; stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the celery and bell pepper; stir fry until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the sherry mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens, and the chicken is just cooked through, 1-2 minutes.

Weight Watchers Notes:

This wonderful dish originated in china's Hunan province and demonstrates the Chinese tradition of naming dishes after significant figures.

Nutritional Information:

According to recipe, one serving (1 cup) provides: 207 calories, 6 g. fat, (1 g. saturated fat), 63 mg. cholesterol, 413 mg. sodium, 13 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. fiber, 24 g. protein, 34 mg. calcium, 4 Weight Watcher Points.

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