September 24, 2007
Bang-Bang! Chicken!

bangbang.jpgAs mentioned in the previous post, I've been on the look out for easy recipes that will appeal to both children and adults lately. This one has not been tested on the toddler yet for the simple reason that so far he is resistant to the lure of peanut butter. I'm pretty sure that - like his chocolate aversion, which disappeared recently - it will go away in time and he'll gobble PBJs like any other red-blooded (half) American child. In addition, I just thought the version I saw Tana Ramsey preparing on TV looked healthy and reasonably flavourful. I bought some peanut butter and, as one does, started browsing the web for recipes.

The first thing I noticed is that this is a popular dish in the UK. The second thing I noticed is that the only site dedicated to Chinese food that had a recipe called for sesame paste, not peanut butter. But by now I was committed (I'd bought the darn stuff after all) and anyway I had a taste for peanut butter. It happens sometimes. If I had some saltine crackers I know I could finish the jar in a sitting. But I digress.

So I had the chicken, the peanut butter and a variety of recipes. I took the things I liked best from each of the recipes, add a few touches of my own and came up with a really delicious dinner. The Critic praised the flavours and the healthiness factors but thought the sauce was a bit thick. I noticed in the TV version I saw that the same was true, and so I suspect this may be just the way it's supposed to be. Anyway, that's what I told him. We both were surprised how much we enjoyed the salad part of the dish as neither of us is a fan of grated carrot. Soaking it in rice vinegar seemed to take away the woody dry aspect that carrot salads so often have.

Bang Bang Chicken (serves 4)

After discussing the thick sauce issue with the Critic, I toyed with the idea of making this for Barrett and the Redhead, using spring roll wrappers to bring it all together in a neater package. As they are not meat eaters, I planned on using tofu in theirs. But alas it appears that the Redhead is no fan of cucumber and I think its light flavour and watery crunch are essential to the dish. So that experiment will have to wait. It's still delicious as described below.

4 chicken breasts
2 cups chicken stock (from cubes or paste is fine as it's just for poaching)
lump of ginger about the size of a thumb

1 cucumber
2-3 carrots
6-8 spring onions
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar

4 handfuls of soft buttery lettuce

2 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs (or to taste) hot pepper oil
1 Tbs vegetable oil (in my case, sunflower)

Garnish: 4-6 tsp sesame seeds

Bring the stock to a light boil. In the meantime, peel the garlic, cut it in a few big chunks, smash them with a mallet and add them to the broth. Add the chicken breasts and simmer for 15 minutes or so, or until cooked through. Remove them from the broth with a slotted spoon and reserve. Keep the broth for some other soup project.

While the chicken is cooking, wash, peel and grate the carrots. Shred the white part of the spring onions in thin slivers. Cut the cucumber in thin matchsticks. Toss the vegetables with the rice wine vinegar and reserve.

Next, prepare the sauce. In a double boiler, or a heavy bottomed pan over a low flame, mix all the ingredients. Once the peanut butter has melted and the sauce is smooth, taste. You may want to add a little more sesame oil or hot oil. Or if some of the recipes are to be believed, you may find a little sugar will complement the hot oil. It's up to you: I kept it relatively simple and it was delicious.

To assemble the salad, simply divide the lettuce onto four plates and top with the vegetables. Smash the chicken breasts with a mallet (some claim this is where the "bang-bang" comes from) and pull them apart into bite-sized morsels. Divide them among the plates and drizzle (or plop) sauce over each of the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at September 24, 2007 10:32 AM Print-friendly version

Looks delicious! I might have to try and do a vegetarian version!

Posted by Mel on September 24, 2007 at 8:49 PM

I've heard that this is actually a relatively authentic Szechuan recipe when made w/ Szechuan peppercorns, and I've seen Thai versions that add coconut milk; sometimes I've also seen it called "Firecracker" or "Volcano" chicken, which makes me think that the "Bang Bang" name might be more related to spiciness than pounding on the chicken.

(If Barrett & the Redhead are still in Paris, by the way, ask them to check their email... I need to coordinate getting them from the airport back to their home when they come back here.)

Posted by Sweth on September 25, 2007 at 7:44 PM

Actually this recipes looks a lot like a popular Chinese recipe called "Bon Bon Chicken" I wonder if something got lost in translation?

Posted by Amy on September 26, 2007 at 11:07 AM

You shouldn't be feeding your toddler peanut butter. Current best practice is to avoid it until age 3 at least. Otherwise they are at a greatly increased risk to develop an alergy, often life threatening.

There are many sources of information on this, just google "peanut allergy toddler" or something similar.

Posted by Joe on November 25, 2007 at 6:48 PM

Joe, thanks for the pointer. My reference books say not before the age of two and in fact our toddler is just a few weeks short of three. And, as mentioned, he doesn't like peanut butter anyway.

But it's good of you to point it out for our other readers!

Posted by Meg in Paris on November 26, 2007 at 2:47 AM
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