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By Terri Hahn
Journalist 

Celebrate the Year of the Tiger

Chinese New Year runs through February 15

 

February 3, 2022

I don't remember the first time I had Mexican food. I don't remember the first time I ate in an "authentic" Italian restaurant.

I do remember the first time I had Chinese.

Growing up in a small town in western Nebraska in the 60s and 70s, what I knew about Chinese food was the kind that you bought in a can at the grocery store. I was not impressed.

But when I was a senior at UNL, I was taking a night class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and, once a week, three friends and I would drive up together for class. One night, just as we were getting ready to leave my apartment, we found out class had been canceled. Since we had no other plans for that night, someone suggested we go out for dinner.

I don't remember who thought of it, but we ended up at a Chinese restaurant on Sun Valley Boulevard. Looking at the menu, I had no idea what to order. This is a common occurrence with any first visit to any restaurant but made more complicated because this was a whole new cuisine.

I finally decided on almond chicken; it seemed a pretty safe bet. To this day, it's still one of my favorites to order at a Chinese restaurant.

I was hooked.

Over the years I tried out many Chinese restaurants, but one of my favorites was just off 27th and Vine streets in Lincoln. I tried to get my parents to go there whenever they came to Lincoln, but they weren't interested.

One day I asked mom why she wouldn't even try it.

"Well, I ate it one time when I was in the hospital ...," she said.

I interrupted her before she could finish her sentence.

"Think of what you just said. That was NOT Chinese food. That was (insert name brand here) in a can."

(Please note this was 35 years ago and speaking from experience, hospital food has greatly improved in that time.)

The next time she came to visit, I went to my favorite restaurant and convinced them to let me order half portions of four or five of my favorite dishes so she could sample them. The result? Chinese food became one of her favorites. To this day, even though she passed away in 2009, in her honor, I still order Chinese as close to her Nov. 19 birthday as I can.

Dad? We never could get him on board. Oh, well. His loss.

In observance of the Chinese New Year (the Year of the Tiger), which started Tuesday and runs through Feb. 15, here are a few recipes of my favorite Chinese dishes. Almond chicken still tops the list.

Almond Chicken

12 ounces skinless and boneless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1-1/2 tablespoons oil

1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into pieces

1 cup sugar snap peas or snow peas

1/2 cup baby carrots, sliced into pieces

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Brown Sauce:

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon corn starch

1/2 tablespoon sugar

5 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Hot cooked rice, to serve (optional)

Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the chicken into bite-sized cubes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and add the corn starch. Mix with a spoon so each piece of the chicken is coated well with the corn starch. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the Brown Sauce. Set aside.

Heat up a wok or skillet on high heat with the oil. Add the ginger and stir-fry until aromatic, follow by the chicken. Stir fry the chicken fry until the surface turns white. Add the sugar snap peas, baby carrots and almonds. Stir to combine well.

Add the sauce into the wok or skillet. Stir to combine well with the chicken. As soon as the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through, dish out and serve immediately over rice, if desired.

Note: If the sauce is too thick, add a bit water to loosen it up during the stir fry.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe from: https://rasamalaysia.com/almond-chicken/

Easy Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided

1⁄2 cup water, plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 pound boneless round steak or 1 pound charcoal chuck steak, cut into thin 3-inch strips

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

4 cups broccoli florets

1 small onion, cut into wedges

1⁄3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Hot cooked rice, for serving

Toasted sesame seeds, for serving (optional)

In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water and garlic powder until smooth.

Add beef and toss.

In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, stir-fry beef in 1 tablespoon oil until beef reaches desired doneness; remove and keep warm.

Stir-fry onion in remaining oil for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the broccoli and cook for 3 minutes until the broccoli is tender but still crisp. Return beef to pan.

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup water until smooth; add to the pan.

Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Serve over rice and garnish with toasted sesame seeds (optional).

Makes 4 servings

Recipe from: Food Network; food.com

Sweet and Sour Pork

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup cider vinegar

2/3 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 medium onion, cut into chunks

2 medium carrots, sliced

1 medium green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks, drained

Hot cooked rice, optional

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup and soy sauce. Pour half into a large resealable plastic bag; add pork. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Set remaining marinade aside.

Drain and discard marinade from pork. In a large skillet, cook pork in oil for 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, green pepper, garlic and ginger; sauté until pork is tender. Add reserved marinade. Bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute. Stir in the pineapple. Serve with rice if desired.

Freeze option: Cool pork mixture. Freeze in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through slowly in a covered skillet, stirring occasionally and adding a little broth or water if necessary. Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from: Taste of Home; http://www.tasteofhome.com

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Email her at [email protected]

 

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