Chinese Chicken with Black Pepper Sauce
by Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
I am really fond of this recipe. I first wrote it back in November of 2002.
Someone online had been seeking the recipe. I was familiar with the dish. Around that time we frequented a place in Miamisburg Ohio called Williehana Asian Buffet. Not that I am that fond of buffets, but the guy who ran the place, William Hung, a Malaysian immigrant, previously had worked down here in Cincinnati at the Benihana before opening his own place and also added a teppenyaki grill as you sometimes see here and there. We came for the fish, and from time to time sampled some of his other things on the buffet to fill out the plate.
I first had Mala chicken there and another kimchi-come-coleslaw that may have been Malaysian which I really loved that he said his wife made (but didn’t offer much more info than that). He also had black pepper chicken on the buffet as you see it here. And I just loved it.
So when I saw the request for the dish, I was stoked and determined to recreate it (I have had a number of successes doing that sort of thing) since I also wanted to make it at home. So we went up there and I ate nothing but Black Pepper chicken that night. I even walked out with some extra in a napkin for a test sample. “No take out! You eat all you want but you eat it here!”
Naughty me. It was just a few bites. I needed it to get this recipe done. Because, you know. William was a really nice guy but he really wasn’t going to tell me a single thing about how he made it. I was on my own.
But at home, I had chicken sitting there and already knew most of what I wanted to do but just mixed the sauce until it was exactly like what he had made. Which in all truth wasn’t complicated at all, which you can see. But that reinforces what I tell everyone all the time, that most restaurant recipes are the simplest way possible, no fancy steps or ingredients. It saves them time and it saves them money to keep it basic.
Williehana did fry the chicken pieces as I have done here, but it is not totally necessary. There will be a textural and slight flavor change (no starch) if you just stir-fry the chicken without frying, but if it is important to you to cut back on fat, please do so.
This recipe is slightly updated from the one I posted in 2002. Not that there is anything off with that recipe, but I have a smaller family now, so the chicken size is cut back, and as many people do, I increased the sauce. But the original that William did was essentially just a glaze, not saucy at all. Since that time I have seen this recipe done elsewhere on buffets, sometimes with tons of gloopy sauce. I wouldn’t double the sauce from what you see here, Those other recipes didn’t match the flavor of Williams cooking, from the black pepper chicken to the mala. His restaurant has been closed for several years now and he has disappeared from the scene. Who knows what became of him? I asked about but no one knew. It’s a shame because he was really talented.
But in all, this is a bit reminisce for me, and one that takes me back. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
And William, wherever you are, we miss you, and good luck in all you do. And as for the extra chicken from my plate I should not have tucked into a napkin, well. Now even though we can’t find you, we can still have what you created, even far from where you created it. Your legacy lives on, dude.
Chinese Chicken with Black Pepper Sauce
- 10 ounces boneless chicken breast or boneless chicken thigh
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion
- 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- hot steamed rice
Black Pepper Sauce:
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark sweet soy sauce (if you can’t locate this add a pinch of brown sugar to your ordinary soy sauce- not perfect, but should be ok)
- 1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
- 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- Stir together ingredients for sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
- Chop chicken into 1/2-inch bites.
- Place chicken in a small bowl and toss with cornstarch until thoroughly and evenly coated.
- Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large skillet.
- Fry chicken pieces in hot oil over med-high heat until golden and cooked through (may need to do several batches so as not to crowd the pan); drain on paper toweling.
- Heat 2 tbsp. peanut oil in a wok skillet and add onions when oil is hot. Cook onions until they become translucent, then add peas and carrots and cook for another minute.
- Stir in chicken pieces and as it becomes hot, add sauce to the pan, and stir a few times to coat well.
- Serve stir-fry with hot steamed rice.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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