Whenever I meet a foreigner, especially a Western one, they will ask me, "Chef Mo, where are you from?" I will tell them that I come from Hong Kong. Then they usually answer that I am from China, and I correct them by saying "yes, but I am from Hong Kong". What does this mean? Let me refer to you a childhood story about my visit to the Mainland countryside where I visited my extended family. As a child, I was used to the city life. Hong Kong was an accomplished city and a world apart from the backwards civilization of the Mainland countryside. It was with great annoyance whenever my mother took me to visit her original village for a weekend. The people were different, the words they used were out-of-touch and they knew so little about technology. I was even annoyed that the village my extended relatives lived in shared only one phone for the entire town.
My cousins from rural China enjoyed a game chasing chickens. I did not join them because I was afraid I would be stepping on chicken and other animal feces. Since I enjoyed peace, I tended to feed the chickens for fun instead of chasing them. There was one particular chicken I grew fond with and I named it Snow. Snow was a special shade of white, which was very rare and beautiful. Naturally, chickens are not beautiful creatures, but Snow was unique. She seemed very intelligent for a chicken.
Of course, you may have guessed correctly that I noticed Snow to be gone one morning. In a moment of evil humor, we had a delicious chicken plate that same evening which I delighted more than others. When I asked what happened to Snow, my grandmother asked me who was Snow? "Oh, you mean the really bright white one? She is in your stomach, Mo Mo!" I suddenly cried, but it was too late. I had already digested Snow. For a few days, I was angry at my rural Mainland cousins for laughing at what happened. I swore I would never eat another chicken again. I sat in solitude, cursing them for being backwards and thinking them barbaric.
Not much later, I went back to eating chicken again. I suppose it was silly of me to be fond of a chicken. Today's lesson is about how to make the dish Kung Pao Chicken. Everybody knows what Kung Pao Chicken is, but I chose it because it represented the Chinese fondness for chicken, especially in rural areas. Kung Pao Chicken is originally a Sichuan dish, that is where the large amounts of spices and peanut garnishes come from. My childhood village is not near the Sichuan area, but the dish is popular enough to illustrate chicken's importance in all areas of China. So this is the Western-version of Kung Pao Chicken, because I know most of the audience is from the Western part of the world. The difference is in the marination, which is actually in our first step.
Let us begin our lesson...
1. MARINATE THE CHICKEN
- Boneless chicken breast
- Rice wine
- Soy sauce
- Cornstarch (water mixtured)
Cut the chicken breast into cube pieces with a medium-sized knife. Combine the wine, soy sauce, oil and a water mixture of cornstarch together. Place chicken pieces in a glass dish or bowl and let them marinade together. Toss them around to coat. Cover dish and place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
2. CREATING THE SAUCE
- White Wine
- Soy sauce
- Cornstarch (water mixtured)
- Hot chili paste
- White vinegar
Now in a small bowl, combine white wine with the soy sauce, watered cornstarch, hot chili paste, white vinegar and some sugar. Heat together in a medium skillet until you can smell the sauce.
3. COOKING TOGETHER WITH PEANUTS
- Ingredients from Step 1
- Ingredients from Step 2
- Green Onions
With some garlic, together now, put the marinaded chicken from Step 1 and cook in a large skillet until the chicken is white and the juices are clear. Add the sauce from Step 2 and simmer together until the sauce is thick. Near the end, cook together with green onions, peanuts and a little bit of sesame oil.
There. You are done. Please enjoy the rest of the story.
In my childhood, I carried with me a prejudice towards my rural Mainland Chinese cousins. Returning visits throughout the following years have brought me a different perspective on them. They live a harder life, but a simpler one in many ways. Being from Hong Kong, I haven't the insight of their experiences. That is why, when people ask me, I do not say I'm from China...I tell them I'm from Hong Kong.
I am glad to know that China is doing well now. Unfortunately, Hong Kong has fallen on tougher economic times. Though we are part of their country, our seperation has not shared in their fortunate destiny. I do not enjoy discussing politics, but I remember the simpler times when I used to visit my rural cousins in the mainland and befriended a chicken I named Snow. These days they are living a happy life, as have I, and for that, I am happy for all of us and embrace them without prejudice.