In case you hadn’t noticed, this week I’ve been on a healthy Chinese takeout tear in honor of the New Year. I have a bit of an obsession with ponies, so I was particularly excited about the year of the galloping horse being upon us. To celebrate, I thought I’d take on another classic from my old Grand Szechuan days.
Sesame chicken is one of the more egregiously unhealthy options on the Chinese menu. And it’s more addictive than crack. The combination of deep fried chicken coated with a sauce that is 75 percent sugar, basically gives your saliva glands a pleasure-induced panic attack. A.k.a. the chicken melts in your mouth.
But as always, I try to do things a little healthier around here. So I did a littler investigating and found these two healthy sesame chicken recipe variations via Iowa Girl Eats and Simply Scratch. I loved that the chicken was coated in cornstarch instead of flour and pan-fried. I cut down on the honey even more and the dish that resulted was a little like a hybrid of chicken and broccoli and sesame chicken. But it still satisfied my take out fix.
One health hack that I always do is make sure the ratio of vegetables to protein is always 1:1. When I used to order chicken and broccoli from my local greasy spoon Chinese spot, I’d always end up with half a leftover container full of just chicken. I hate it when vegetables are just an accent. Pus, there’s something about the way broccoli florets absorb sauce that’s just as intoxicating as munching on a piece of fried chicken. So why not embrace it?
Are there any other takeout delicacies you’d like to see a healthy and/or gluten-free version of on this site? Let me know in the comments!
Healthy Sesame Chicken with Broccoli
- 4 cups small broccoli florets and thinly sliced stems (about 3/4 pound)
- 1 large egg white
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch, arrowroot starch or tapioca starch
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
- 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (black or regular)
In a large wok or lidded skillet, cover the broccoli with 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce to medium, then cover and cook until vibrant and tender, 1-2 minutes. Drain in a colander. Rinse and dry the skillet.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg white, cornstarch, and salt in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add the chicken and toss to combine.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in the cleaned skillet over high heat. When hot, add the chicken in an even layer. Cook until golden brown on the first side, about 2 minutes, then stir fry until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add the remaining vegetable or coconut oil and stir fry the peppers and white scallions until lightly charred, 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the chicken back to the pan, along with the tamari, sesame oil, honey, and sesame seeds. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, 2 minutes. Stir in the broccoli and green scallions. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.
If you find that the chicken sticks to the skillet, you can added an additional 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock with the sauce to help deglaze the pan. Usually, the peppers are enough to release those brown bits.