Snow Pea and Carrot Stir-fry

Last spring, I took an Asian cooking class (cleverly titled “Wok and Roll”) at Sur La Table with my friend Julie, where we learned to make Americanized versions of Asian staples like Kung Pao chicken, spring rolls and dumplings.   Until today, I hadn’t bothered to cook any of those things that I learned to make 9 months ago.

If there is one New Year’s resolution I’m making, it’s to cook or create one new recipe a week.  One a week is about all my current schedule will allow me to have time for, until I am off for the summer.   So tonight’s dinner was a stir-fry I thought of in my head while in the produce section at the grocery store earlier today.

I really like snow peas, and I love carrots, so I thought it only natural that the two should share a pan with the chicken I’d taken out of the freezer the night before.  The question was, what sort of sauce would I use?  Most commercially prepared stir-fry sauces have cornstarch or MSG, both of which my husband reacts very badly to.  Not wanting to have to use an Epipen at the conclusion of dinner, I decided to do a bit of research of various recipes for different stir-fries, and created a recipe of my own.  The result?  See for yourself:

Savory, a little sweet and will leave you wanting more. Better than takeout!

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • 4 cups snow pea pods
  • 4 cups shredded carrots (this is one whole package)

First you will need to prepare the marinade for the chicken, which must sit for 30 minutes prior to cooking.  The ingredients for the marinade I made are below.

  • ¼ cup low salt soy sauce
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sherry
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (fresh ginger would work really well here; for more of a bite, add more ginger)
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp arrowroot starch, dissolved in a bit of warm water

Place all ingredients except for the arrowroot in a large bowl and whisk until everything is combined.  At the end, add the dissolved arrowroot starch.  Here, the arrowroot takes the place of the traditional cornstarch used to thicken sauces in many cuisines.  The substitution here works well for people who are sensitive to corn, and goes like so:  2 teaspoons of arrowroot powder replaces 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.  Arrowroot, like cornstarch, does not have a flavor, and creates a sauce with a really nice silky consistency.  I used a fork to stir the warm water into my arrowroot in another cup, and then poured this into the marinade.

Set the marinade aside and slice your chicken into small, thin bite-size pieces.  If your meat is partially frozen, it is easier to slice.  Put all the meat into the bowl containing the marinade and using your hands, coat all the meat with the marinade.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

While you are waiting for the meat to soak up the yummy flavor of the marinade, make the sauce for the dish.  You will need:

  • ¼ cup low salt soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sherry
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp arrowroot starch, dissolved in warm water
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth, divided

In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine all ingredients plus one half of the chicken broth.  Reserve the remainder of the chicken broth for cooking the vegetables later.

After the meat has had a chance to marinate, heat a wok or large flat skillet with 3 tablespoons of canola or peanut oil on medium high to high heat.  You are going to cook at very high heat, so it is critical you use an oil with a relatively high smoke point.  You want the oil to be very, very hot so that when you cook the meat, it does not take long to cook.  The point of stir-frying is to continually move the food as it cooks so that it does not require much oil to cook, and the food cooks quickly.

Once your pan is hot enough, remove the meat from the marinade and add it to the pan in batches, taking care to stir it continually as it cooks.  It is a good idea to use the spoon you are stirring with to cut into the meat to determine doneness.  Remove the meat to a platter or bowl and repeat the cooking with the additional meat.

While the pan is still hot, add the carrots, snow peas and the reserved chicken broth.  This will help pick up the tasty browned bits that have likely formed on the bottom of the pan.  Continually stir the vegetables so that they have a chance to cook a bit, and then add the meat back to the pan.  Stir to mix the meat in with the vegetables, and then add the sauce you created, a ladle at a time.  Heat all of this completely through.  Serve over steamed rice.

This recipe fed two, with leftovers for my lunch, plus seconds for both of us.  I estimate that it probably could feed a family of 6 easily.

I think the recipe could also be modified to make a kung pao version with the addition of chilis, and could be made with beef or pork as well.


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