Wednesday, March 02, 2011

San Bei Gi

As I mentioned last week, I really enjoyed reading The Art of Eating In by Cathy Erway.  Her mission to only eat homemade meals really inspired me to try some new recipes, one of which was a Taiwanese dish called San Bei Gi from her book.  Her version is slight untraditional in that she uses boneless chicken and adds green beans to make it a one dish meal.  

I followed her suggestions and used three boneless chicken breasts I had in the freezer (Trader Joe's sells all-natural, individually frozen breasts in a big bag).  The recipe in the book called for three pound of meat, but I only used between 1.5-2 pounds, and we still got six and a half servings out of it.  

The green beans were frozen from the summer, and I didn't weigh them, but I'm sure I had less than a half a pound.  We probably should have been eating more vegetables, but I didn't want to buy some from the store and have them interfere with the fresh tasting green beans from our share.

Since I already had most of the ingredients I needed, I went to Tan-A, an Asian market, and bought a nice piece of ginger, five cloves of garlic, sesame oil, and a huge bunch of Thai basil all for $5.54.  I think the sesame oil alone at a grocery store would have been at least that much.  The Thai basil has a very distinctive flavor - if you can't find it, don't try to substitute with regular basil.  You're better off omitting the basil all together.  

I should also have gotten rice wine, which I thought I already had, so I ended up substituting rice wine vinegar.  The next time I make this, I'm going to make sure I have the rice wine, because I could definitely detect a slight vinegar taste.  I think I'll also try to reduce the amount of sesame oil (unless I use the full amount of chicken and beans), because there was plenty of liquid and it's a lot more oil than I normally cook with.   

This is a great base recipe to use with a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables.  The flavors are rich and layered, although they're light enough to still feel healthy, and there's the added satisfaction that it was made in your very own kitchen.

Boneless San Bei Gi with Green Beans
adapted from Cathy Erway's The Art of Eating In

1.5-2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sesame oil
20 cloves of garlic (about 2 small heads), smashed or coarsely chopped 
20 slices of fresh ginger
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half
2 scallions, chopped
2-3 dried whole red chilies (optional)
1 large bunch Thai basil leaves
Rice for serving

Mix chicken pieces in cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce in a bowl.  Cover and chill to marinate at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

In a large nonstick pan (or wok), heat sesame oil with the chilies, garlic and ginger until oil just begins to bubble.  Add chicken and stir to brown pieces on all sides.  Add vinegar, remaining soy sauce, and sugar.  Stir until boiling, then cover.  let simmer on medium-low 8 minutes or so.  Add the green beans and basil and stir to evenly distribute them.  Cover partially and continue cooking for 5 minutes.  Add scallions and toss once more.  Serve with white rice.

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