Doable Dinners: Too far for takeout? Try this Chinese classic

  • Add mushrooms, broccoli, celery or peppers to make this chicken chow mein a heartier, healthier meal. FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESORO

  • Chicken chow mein is a Chinese takeout classic. FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESORO

  • If you live outside the delivery range of a Chinese restaurant, this chicken chow mein will satiate your craving. FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESORO

  • “Velveting” the chicken before cooking will ensure it stays tender. FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESORO

For the Gazette
Published: 11/2/2019 11:00:20 AM

We live in the woods of the Berkshires so having delicious food delivered to our door has never been an option. My kids have always dreamed of calling and ordering a pizza and having the delivery person come to our door, or even more exciting might be Chinese food, all packaged in those white take out containers.

I grew up in New York City, so this is not as exciting of a phenomenon, but to my children, the allure of really good food being delivered is just a pipe dream only allowed for “city dwellers” or the more urban towns not too far away. I try to tell them it’s not such a great thing anyhow and we can do without all that wasted packaging but the truth is, my husband and I would love it as much as they would once in a while.

As a city girl with over 15 years of living in rural Massachusetts under her belt, I have learned some hands-on survival skills: chopping and stacking wood, building fires, gathering eggs from the chicken coop, growing vegetables. And one of them also, I’m proud to say, is making chicken chow mein. Trying to replicate something from a Chinese restaurant was daunting at first, but actually it is really simple. When I first gave dish this to my son Nick he was eating it lovingly and asked, “Where’d you get the Chinese food from?”

The first thing to know is a chicken prep secret that I will share with you. After cooking chicken many times and finding that the chicken pieces were hard and overdone, I learned this technique called ”velveting.” There are a few ways, but the easiest is to marinate pieces of raw chicken in baking soda for 20 minutes and then rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Another way uses egg whites and vinegar and blanching, but the baking soda method frees you up to prep the vegetables while it marinates. What I love about this dish is that there are so many vegetables and they are all in noodle shape so you do not realize (or the kids don’t notice) how many vegetables you are eating.

This recipe is for 4 servings, but I have found that I always need to double the recipe because it gets gobbled up very quickly. This is a basic chow mein recipe, but feel free to add other vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli, celery or peppers.

Chicken Chow Mein

1 pound chicken breast or thighs, cut into 2-inch slices
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons peanut oil, or other cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 sweet onion chopped in longer pieces
2 carrots, julienned
4 cups shredded green and purple cabbage (a bag of chopped coleslaw mix can make it easier)
Bundle of green onions, chopped in 2-inch pieces
Fresh or canned bean sprouts, drained if canned
Package of Chinese noodles, prepared as directed


1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce or hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons of Mirin wine

Toss the chicken pieces with baking soda and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat peanut oil and add garlic until browned. Remove garlic from pan and add cooked chicken pieces until slightly brown but not cooked through. Remove from pan. Add onions and carrots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Chop up garlic cloves and add them back with the chicken. Add cabbage and cook for 8 minutes, then and add green onions and sauce mix. Stir in Chinese noodles and bean sprouts, let the sprouts cook down a little, and serve.

I like to add a little cilantro but that is optional. As I have written before, I am the only one in my family that will eat cilantro so I am going to leave that up to you.

I usually buy fortune cookies at the grocery store and that is a sure hit. I look forward to adding to my Chinese take out repertoire. Even more daunting than chicken chow mein is egg rolls! Oh, I cannot wait to try.

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