My house is turning into a zoo. It's Chinese New Year and 2015 is the year of the sheep (or the goat, as they seem to be interchangeable in the Chinese horoscope); I'm cooking chicken and I'm being watched over by a lucky golden carp and one of those beaming cats that waves its paw at you.
My husband was born in the Year of the Tiger and I'm a Rooster. Don't go there. Maybe we should concentrate on the chicken.
So here's a quick and easy recipe for what are, essentially, Chinese chicken nuggets. Naturally, children love them. Served with equally speedy stir-fried noodles and maybe some wilted pak choi, you can make a tasty meal in the time it takes for the local takeaway to deliver something gloopy and orange. A dipping sauce is good on the side (see below).
Golden Five Spice Chicken
1 chicken breast per person, cubed
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin or dry sherry
1 level tspn Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tspn runny honey (or soft brown sugar)
1 thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 large egg, beaten
Up to 500ml vegetable oil
In a large bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the oil with the soy sauce, mirin, five-spice powder, honey, ginger, spring onions and garlic. Stir in the chicken cubes and marinate for at least one hour.
Stir the beaten egg into the mix in the bowl, put the cornflour on a plate and roll the chicken cubes in the flour.
Heat about three inches of oil in a wok on a moderate heat, add the chicken and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes, then raise the heat to high and fry until golden brown and cooked through (about another minute or two).
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
For the egg noodles, cook according to packet instructions then toss with a splash of sesame oil. Stir-fry chopped ginger and garlic for half a minute, add a double handful of sliced mushrooms and cook a minute more, then four or five spring onions, shredded lengthways, plus the noodles. Stir fry until heated through. Pour in a tablespoon each of light soy sauce and oyster sauce, let it sizzle up and serve.
For the dipping sauce, put two crushed garlic cloves, a thumb of ginger peeled and grated and a tablespoon of finely chopped spring onions in a bowl. Add two tablespoons each of dark soy sauce and mirin and stir well.