Chinese. Curry. These are two words that do not sit well together in my mind. It has taken me a long time to reconcile them. Yes, Chinese food has a few ingredients in common with most Asian curries: ginger and garlic to name just two. But somehow for me the two categories - Chinese and Curry - have always remained separate and distinct in my mind's recipe index. When I sat down to write up this recipe, I tried to do a little research (I do try to save you some trouble when I can) but I found very little information on Chinese curries. My Breath of a Wok has a recipe for a Chinese curry, but no explanation on its origins. Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible is strangely silent on the subject, though she does include curries from countries as diverse as Guyana and Japan. In the end - as always - Wikipedia came through with a marginal reference in the curry entry and confirmed my suspicions that the Chinese curry you commonly find in restaurants around the world probably descended from a Singaporean/Malaysian variety. So now you know.
All I know is that I am glad I overcame my prejudices and came up with this dish. I've had Chinese curries in restaurants a few times but this was my first attempt at home - and since I was able to tailor it to my and the Critic's tastes it tasted much better to me. In fact, aside from adapting the vegetables a bit to what is in season, I don't see any reason to change the recipe a whit. And I'll be making it again, don't worry. Spice and coconut and soy sauce: who knew they could make such a first class meal in one? And best of all for a busy parent, it was done in the time it takes to cook a pot of rice.
I was actually looking for a new stir fry recipe when I came up with this recipe. I can't remember what combination of ingredients I googled initially but one of the results was this one for Curry Coconut Chicken, which I adapted to fit the ingredients I had on hand and our tastes. It doesn't specifically say it is a Chinese curry, that's the general idea I was aiming for in my adaptation.
A Simple Chinese Curry
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, free range and organic for preference and cut in bite-sized pieces
8-10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
12 broad beans, cut on the diagonal in 1 inch pieces
1 small head of broccoli, cut in small florets
2 small carrots, cut on the diagonal in slices about the width of a pound coin
2 young leeks, cleaned and sliced in thin rings
1 1/2 Tbs Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Powder (or the curry powder of your choice)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1" of fresh ginger, peeled and minced finely
2-3 Tbs vegetable oil
400 ml coconut milk
2 Tbs soy sauce
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan and add the garlic and ginger. When they begin to smell fragrant, add the leeks. Stir until they have gone soft, then remove to a platter. Turn up the heat on the pan and - if necessary - add a little more oil. Add the chicken and leave on the heat without stirring for as long as you can bear. (I'm a terrible fidgeter and have a hard time leaving things well enough alone.) When the chicken smells delicious and is starting to achieve a nice brown crust, you can stir briefly to brown the other side. The more patient you are, the more flavor the chicken will have. Once the chicken is browned to your satisfaction, put the garlic, onion and leek mixture back in the pan. Stir in the curry powder and let the mix cook for a few minutes to bring out the flavor of the curry. Stir in the coconut milk and the soy sauce. Add the carrots and allow to simmer for five minutes. Then add the beans. (An intelligent reader will notice that if you have not prepared your vegetables in advance - now who would be that haphazard? - you can easily do so as you go along in this recipe.) Simmer for five minutes and then add the broccoli and tomatoes. Bring the mixture back to heat and simmer for another 8-10 minutes, until the broccoli goes bright green and the rest of the vegetables are tender. Serve over steamed rice immediately.
As written above, the recipe isn't too spicy for the whole family. My nearly 18 month old son was happy tasting from our dishes. However, if you like your food really feisty, you could add a few bird's eye chili peppers or a good grinding of white pepper.