Growing up, eating out didn’t happen too often. We didn’t live close to restaurants, my parents both worked full time, so my mom meal planned and most nights cooked or on the weekends one of my parents would grill out.
On Fridays we usually ate Mexican food, but every once in a while, my parents would take us out for Chinese food at the Happy Buddha restaurant. I loved that place. The decor was beautiful, the music and small fountain were calming, they served hot soup and unusual plates of food that were way better than the canned Chop Suey that my mom made sometimes. I would liken it to an at home MRE – meal ready to eat – (if you have a military background then you know the ready-made meals in packs). I’m not sure if you can still buy canned Chinese food at the local grocery store and just warm it up, but back in the 80’s it was real torture food for kids.
The coolest thing for me at the Happy Buddha as a kid, were the place mat calendars that featured animals. Each of the animals had friends and enemies. I’m a snake year, and for some reason my monkey brother wasn’t my enemy, the boar was. Definite error in my 11 year old mind.
As creatures of habit, we always ordered the same meals and soups. I didn’t taste hot and sour soup until I was grown because why would you when there’s a meat treasure inside of the wontons in Wonton Soup. For me, Moo Goo Gai Pan was my go to plate.
This is a recipe that I now make in my own kitchen since I’m nowhere near the Happy Buddha. It’s loaded with chicken, vegetables, and a flavorful sauce. I serve it over steamed rice, that I make in my pressure cooker, just like I ordered it as a kid, but if you love fried rice then make it your own. When I can’t find snow peas, I substitute zucchini or broccoli because in my opinion it screams for a green vegetable.
A helpful hint for cutting the boneless, skinless chicken breasts is to place them in the freezer for 30-45 minutes or until they firm up a bit. You don’t want to freeze them, but just help them to stay still while slicing them. Also, slice the meat against the grain of the chicken into long thin strips.
Chinese food at home that’s not from a can. In my opinion that’s an excellent dinner option
Chicken and Vegetables:
For the sauce:
Have all ingredients ready to add to the hot pan. You will need to stir constantly.
Don’t crowd the pan to avoid steaming the meat and vegetables. Cook in two batches if needed.
I use two separate cutting boards – 1 for meat/1 for vegetables
Wash and dry all of the vegetables and slice them in thin pieces.
Slice the chicken into long thin pieces.
I slice my carrots, and celery thin and on a diagonal.
If using the canned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts drain and set aside.
Mix the sauce ingredients up in a measuring cup and set aside.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil over high in a large nonstick skillet or wok.
Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil and add the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds. Do not burn it.
Add the carrots, celery, cabbage, and white onions and cook them for 2-3 minutes.
Next add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 3-4 minutes or until your desired level of texture is achieved. If necessary cook in batches, I have a giant skillet, but if your skillet is smaller then cook in two batches.
If using bamboo shoots and water chestnuts add them and cook for 1 minute or until warmed.
Add the chicken back to the pan and season the everything with the salt and pepper.
Stir the stir fry sauce ingredients to make sure the cornstarch is fully incorporated and then pour over the chicken and vegetables.
Allow the sauce to come up to a boil to thicken. Turn down the heat and cook for 1-2 minutes or until warmed through.
Serve over steamed or fried rice or eat without grains for a carb free meal.
Notes – Substitute any vegetables that I have suggested for your favorites or whatever that you can purchase. I would normally use sugar snap peas, but I couldn’t purchase them at the time that I shopped so I subbed zucchini, but broccoli would be an excellent replacement or addition.