It will be hard to order this dish in your local Chinese restaurant after you've made this version at home. The marinated chicken is breaded, not coated in a gloppy batter, and the sauce is piquant, neither overly sweet or syrupy.
Silver Spring cook Sheila Chang doesn't trim the fat from the dark meat here, but you certainly can. White-meat chicken may be substituted.
Serve with steamed rice.
Make Ahead: The chicken needs to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The dish tastes best the same day it is made.
Servings: 4 - 6
- For the marinade and chicken
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces, fat trimmed if desired
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 thin slices unpeeled ginger root
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 4 cups canola oil, for frying
- 2 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs (preferably from stale French bread)
- For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed, then minced (scant tablespoon)
- 2 thin slices peeled ginger root, cut into matchsticks, then finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 medium onion, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups water, plus more for the cornstarch slurry
- Half of a 20-ounce can of pineapple slices, cut into bite-size pieces, plus half the juice from the can
- 3 to 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the marinade and chicken: Combine the chicken, soy sauce, ginger and white wine in a bowl or resealable plastic food storage bag. Cover or seal and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Line a colander with several layers of paper towels. Pour the oil into a large saute pan and heat to 250 degrees (over medium heat). Place the bread crumbs in a wide bowl.
Working with four or five pieces of chicken at a time, add them to the bread crumbs and toss to coat evenly. Carefully add to the hot oil; fry for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until golden brown and crisped. Use a Chinese skimmer or large slotted spoon to transfer to the paper-towel-lined colander to drain. Repeat to use all of the chicken.
Reserve the marinade; discard its ginger slices.
For the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saute pan or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry just until fragrant (do not let the garlic burn), then add the onion and red bell pepper, stirring to coat. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes (do not let the onions take on color), then add the marinade, the 2 cups of water, pineapple and its juices. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the ketchup, 3/4 cup of the sugar and the vinegar, stirring to form a red sauce. Taste, and add the remaining sugar as needed.
Whisk together the cornstarch with just enough water (a tablespoon or two) to form a slurry, then stir it into the sauce, which should thicken almost immediately. Add the cooked chicken and stir to coat the pieces evenly. Remove from the heat; transfer to a platter and serve right away.
From former catering kitchen cook Sheila Chang, of Silver Spring.
Tested by Sheila Chang and Bonnie S. Benwick.
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