I’ll never understand why it’s so easy to find good Japanese food in Geneva, but so hard to find a decent and fairly priced Chinese restaurant. In most parts of the world, Chinese food can be found at almost every street corner and is probably one of the cheapest take outs in the city. In Geneva, however, Chinese cuisine is one of the most expensive and is by far not even close to the real thing. Having grown up in Taiwan, it is true that I am biased about Chinese food. The flavors, smells, fruits and vegetables of Asia cannot be compared to any where else in the world. Jon couldn’t believe me when I said that he’s never actually tasted the true flavor of fruits until we honeymooned in Thailand. There, we ate mango, passion fruit and pineapple for breakfast, and as he took the first bite of an Asian fruit he uttered the words, “You were right, this is the best thing ever” (oh how I love being right!). When you’ve gone to food heaven, it’s hard to come back. I learned that when I moved to Geneva at nine years old and ate my first cucumber on Swiss territory, only to be left wondering if it was actually a cucumber or some kind of look-alike relative with no flavor whatsoever. It is understandable therefore that Chinese food here can’t compare to the real deal, with carrots that don’t taste like carrots and red peppers that don’t taste like red peppers. What I’ll never understand is why the food is so darn expensive if it doesn’t even taste authentic! Does somebody have the answer? Or better… do you have an amazing Chinese restaurant in Geneva that will make me change my mind?
To satisfy my desire for great Chinese food, I began cooking my own dishes at home following recipes compiled during our many years in Taiwan. The vegetables used in my recipes might still be a far cry away from what we would buy in the market in Taiwan, but thanks to thick sauces made out of authentic Asian ingredients, my recipes get as close as possible to finding amazing and mouthwatering Chinese food in Switzerland.
The wonderful thing about stir-fry chicken is that it is so versatile and can be made with pretty much any vegetable you have hanging around in your fridge. For this recipe, I stir-fried garlic, snow peas, mushrooms and green onion leaves, but feel free to switch out the snow peas and mushrooms for other crunchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and green, red or yellow peppers. You can even add a bit more crunch with cashew nuts, or make this recipe with beef instead of chicken. Whatever you choose, you first need to know how to properly stir-fry.
Chinese food is generally made in a wok, but as you can see in my photos, I don’t own one and use a large skillet instead. If you have a wok at home, by all means use it — these giant cooking pots are shaped like bowls with round bottoms and high sides so as to better retain heat. Whether you’re cooking your stir-fry in a wok or skillet, the key to success is to cook your vegetables on high heat, and for no more than 1 to 5 minutes so that they keep their crunchiness without burning or becoming golden.
Rule number one: Chinese food is never burnt, nor is it mushy.
Rule number two: Make sure to heat your vegetable oil for a while before beginning your stir-fry. You’ll know that your wok/skillet is hot enough when the vegetable oil starts steaming. That’s when you throw in your vegetables, one ingredient at a time, as each has a different cooking time.
As garlic and green onion leaves tend to burn super fast, make sure to cook them first and move them to a plate before they turn golden. After cooking each new ingredient, move it from the wok/skillet to the same plate. Once all ingredients are cooked, including the chicken, return them to the wok/skillet and heat through with the sauce until it thickens.
Maybe you’re luckier elsewhere in the world and can find vegetables that truly taste like vegetables, if not don’t worry, this recipe won’t fail you. You now have all the power in your hands to cook a delicious Chinese dinner at home, and if you do, don’t forget to invite me!
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 green onion leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 cups (150g) snow peas
- 2 cups (150g) chopped white button mushrooms, stems removed
- 1 pound (500g) chicken breast, cut in thick pieces
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chicken stock powder
- ½ cup (1.2dl) water
- Begin by heating the oil in a wok or large skillet on high heat. The wok or skillet will be hot enough when the oil starts to steam. Chinese stir-fry is cooked on extremely high heat, so keep an eye on your stove to make sure nothing burns. All ingredients must be cooked until a bit tender but not golden.
- When the oil is steaming, add the garlic, green onion stems and ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute, until fragrant. Set aside on a separate plate.
- Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 5 minutes, or until they release their liquid and are tender. Set aside on the same plate.
- Add the snow peas and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes, until they become a bit tender but not golden. Set aside on the same plate.
- Add the chicken breast and stir-fry until cooked through and golden. Set aside on the same plate.
- Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a jar and shake thoroughly.
- Return all the vegetables and chicken to the wo, reduce heat to medium and pour sauce over the ingredients. Heat the chicken and vegetables through for 5-7 minutes until sauce thickens. If your sauce becomes too thick you can always add a bit more water to thin it out. Serve immediately when ready.
OTHER VEGETABLES THAT CAN BE USED: green, red or yellow peppers, baby corn, broccoli and carrots.
OTHER ADDITIONS: cashew nuts, lightly toasted in the wok
SERVING TIPS: Serve your stir-fry chicken immediately. If you have guests coming over and need to prepare it in advance, stir-fry all of your ingredients and set aside. Only add the sauce and warm through when ready to serve.
How did your Chinese stir-fry chicken with snow peas and mushrooms come out? Share photos of your recipe on Instagram by tagging #savormania