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8 & $20: Chinese Takeout–Inspired Chicken with Charred Garlic String Beans

Classic crispy chicken in a sweet, spicy sauce pops with a bright, refreshing white
Enjoy a lower-calorie, less expensive version of a delivery classic at home.
Photo by: Julie Harans
Enjoy a lower-calorie, less expensive version of a delivery classic at home.

Julie Harans
Posted: October 30, 2018

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

When savory, crisp chicken meets a sweet, sticky sauce in Chinese takeout classics like sesame chicken and General Tso’s, the results are irresistible. The only thing standing between you and one of these satisfying meals is the sense of guilt over ordering out instead of making a healthy, home-cooked meal.

This recipe is the solution. There’s no deep-frying, so the end result is less greasy than your go-to takeout order, without sacrificing that essential crunchy exterior or thick sauce. Add a low-maintenance string bean side and perfectly cooked rice, and you’ve got a craveable dish without the extra cost and calories of takeout.

While some roasted vegetable recipes require frequent tossing for an even crisp, here you’ll let the beans hang out with minimal interruption for a pleasant char. Roast them while the rice is cooking to save time, but don’t skip those extra steps for the rice. Rinsing the grains before cooking removes excess starch, while covering the pot with a paper towel afterwards absorbs excess moisture; both steps prevent the rice from becoming gummy or sticky.

The sauce is made with pantry staples and allows plenty of wiggle room for substitutions. No tomato paste? Give it a squirt of ketchup. Out of Sriracha? A few shakes of red pepper flakes will work. Just keep the key components of sweet, savory and spicy.

For the wine pairing, my first instinct was to go with the variety I almost always reach for when heading to a BYOB Asian eatery: Riesling.

In the hopes of a pleasant surprise, I first tried an Albariño, which has some similar qualities. Bright and refreshing on its own, this example was too light-bodied and minerally to stand up to the bold flavors of the dish, so I reverted to Riesling.

Lamoreaux Landing Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2016 delivered what I was looking for in a match. The high acidity balanced the richness of the sauce; tropical and orchard fruit aromas and flavors offered an impression of sweetness to complement the dish's heat. Grab a glass and a pair of chopsticks and dig in.

Chinese Takeout–Inspired Chicken with Charred Garlic String Beans

Pair with a Riesling such as Lamoreaux Landing Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2016 (87 points, $15).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 1/2 pounds string beans
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or more if desired)
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional, for garnish)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Rinse rice until water runs clear, then add to a medium saucepan with 1 1/4 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for 18 minutes until the water is absorbed. Turn off heat, fluff with a fork and cover with a paper towel before placing the lid back on the pan. Set aside.

2. Place string beans on a baking sheet, toss with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and half of the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes, tossing at the halfway mark.

3. In a small bowl, whisk honey, soy sauce, tomato paste, Sriracha and remaining garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

4. Cut chicken into 1 1/2-inch cubes and place in a resealable, 1-gallon plastic bag with cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Shake to coat chicken.

5. Heat remaining vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium high. Once oil is shimmering, add chicken in a single layer and let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure an even crust. Add sauce, reduce heat to medium low and stir to coat the chicken. Let cook for 2 minutes more until the sauce has thickened.

6. Serve chicken over rice and top with scallions. Plate string beans on the side. Serves 4.

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