This dish, adapted from a recipe by Chinese cookbook author Nina Simonds, requires a lot of preparation, but it is spectacular. The velvety chicken, the crunchy vegetables, the noodles both crispy and soft, and the delicious sauce combine for a unique taste experience. It can be a one-dish meal for your family (reduce all the ingredients to make a smaller amount) or part of a special meal for company. I have included it in a New Year's Eve Chinese dinner party with great success (see our Chinese Dinner for Twelve). If your gathering is an informal one, where guests can help with the preparation, this recipe is ideal. There are lots of tasks that can be assigned to others – frying the noodle pancake, preparing the vegetables, mixing the sauce ingredients, even doing some of the stir-frying. If you are making this yourself, marinate the chicken earlier in the day (keep in the fridge), form the noodle pancake ahead of time, and cut up all the vegetables in advance. You will need a large round serving platter for this dish, one that is deep enough to hold all the sauce.
2 pounds boneless chicken breast
For the marinade:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the noodle pancake:
12 ounces thin egg noodles
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the stir-fried vegetables:
2 or 3 scallions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced gingerroot
1 large onion
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 medium stalks celery
1 medium green bell pepper (or 1/2 green and 1/2 red)
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms
4 ounces snow peas (peapods)
Vegetable oil for stir-frying
For the sauce:
2 cups Chicken Stock
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Optional: 1-2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 or 2 scallions, green part only, sliced (for garnish)
Boil the egg noodles according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Wipe out the pot, return the noodles to it with 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and toss to coat. Place the noodles in a round cake pan or pie plate (at least 10-inches wide) and set aside.
Remove tendons and any fat from the chicken. Cut into thin slices and place in a bowl. Combine the marinade ingredients, add to the chicken, and stir to coat all the pieces. Marinate for 20 minutes, or longer in the refrigerator.
Prepare all the vegetables and place each in a separate bowl: Cut the scallions into 1 or 2-inch pieces. Cut the onion in half, and then each half into 3 wedges; separate the pieces. Slice the carrots on the diagonal, about 1/4-inch thick. Slice the celery on the diagonal, about 1/2-inch thick. Cut the pepper into pieces, 1 to 1 1/2 inches on each side. Remove the stem from each mushroom by cutting the cap around it into 3 or 4 pieces. Snap off the hard tip from the end of the pea pods and pull off the string (if any); leave the pods whole.
Heat a 12-inch non-stick frying pan or cast-iron skillet. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil and heat until smoking. Invert the noodle cake into the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown. Swirl the pan occasionally to move the pancake so that it cooks evenly. If it sticks to the pan, use a spatula to loosen it. (You may need to pour a little more oil in the pan when turning it.) When browned on both sides, transfer the pancake to a deep heat-proof platter and place it in a preheated 350-degree oven to keep warm and crisp.
Mix together the sauce ingredients in a large measuring cup and set aside. Mix the thickener ingredients and set aside. If using bean sprouts, rinse and drain them and set them on dish towel or double layer of paper towels to dry. If desired, slice a scallion for garnish.
Heat a wok, add 3 tablespoons of oil, and heat until very hot. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for a minute to cook gently and flavor the oil. Remove with a handled strainer and place in a large bowl. Add the onion pieces and stir-fry until just beginning to wilt and remove to the bowl. Stir-fry each vegetable separately, so that you can control the degree of doneness, and add to the bowl. The carrots and celery can be cooked together; the peapods and mushrooms can also be cooked together and will take only a minute. Remember to undercook all the vegetables slightly, as they will continue to soften in the bowl and when combined with the chicken and sauce.
Add about 3 tablespoons oil to the wok and heat to about 350 degrees. Add the chicken slices and stir-fry until they have all turned color and are cooked through. (You can cut one open to check, although if the slices are thin, they will be done when they all turn white.) Return all the vegetables to the wok, slowly add the sauce mixture, and gently stir until it begins to boil. Stir the thickener, add to the wok, and stir constantly to prevent lumps. When it appears done, add the bean sprouts (optional) and stir gently.
Pour the mixture over the pan-fried noodles, top with the scallion slices if desired, and serve immediately.