As I'm feeling springlike - I've hung my washing on the line for the first time this year, and the daffodils in my garden are in bloom - I'm ready to face fresher, lighter foods. In fact, I'm craving them. Bang Bang Chicken is the perfect spring meal - zesty, spicy, and packed full of flavour, it's served on a bed of raw vegetables, and boy, did I need them.
The plentiful chicken and the rich, peanutty sauce - plus the accompanying rice noodles - mean my poor, stodge-filled body hasn't gone into shock, though. There's plenty in this dish to fill up even the hungriest of tums.
Bang Bang Chicken (serves 2)
Preparation time: Less than 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
You will need:
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 15g fresh ginger, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 1 stick lemongrass, topped and tailed and chopped into large pieces
- 1 star anise
- A large pinch of salt
- 350ml boiling water
- 2 large chicken breasts, skins removed if necessary (mine weighed 350g in total)
- 300g ribbon rice noodles
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into ribbons using the peeler
- 2 spring onions, outer layer removed and finely sliced on the diagonal
- 1 red pepper, sliced in strips
- 200g sugar snap peas
- Massive handful of beansprouts
- 5 heaped tbsp crunchy peanut butter
- 1 or 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- Big handful of coriander, stalks removed and leaves roughly chopped
- Juice and pulp of a lime
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Unsalted peanuts
- Sesame seeds
- More coriander leaves
- Lime wedges
- Mix the rice vinegar, sweet chilli sauce, ginger, garlic, peppercorns, lemongrass, star anise, salt, and boiling water in a pan, and poach the chicken breasts for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Meanwhile, prepare the noodles as per the packet instructions - mine took a minute in the microwave. Set aside to cool, then toss with the sesame oil.
- Assemble your noodles and veggies on a plate. By this time, the chicken should be done - if you're unsure, slice through the thickest part and have a look. Remove from the water and leave on a plate to cool.
- Keep the remaining liquid at a rolling boil for a couple of minutes until it's reduced a little more, then drain through a fine sieve, removing the bits and retaining the water (don't absent-mindedly drain the water down the plughole. I've heard this can cause a HULK KITCHEN SMASH. Apparently. Ahem). At this juncture I fished out the three garlic cloves and chopped them up to add to the peanut sauce - this is optional.
- Return the liquid to the pan, add the peanut butter, chillies, garlic if using, coriander, and lime juice and pulp, and stir vigorously (no need to put it back on the heat, but if you're finding it hard to mix together, a minute over a low flame should do it - and you may need to add a little more water, too). Taste, and add salt, pepper, more chilli, or more peanut butter as you wish.
- Shred the cooled chicken, and toss into the peanut sauce, coating everything well.
- Top your veggie-noodle salad with peanutty chicken, and garnish with a few unsalted peanuts, a sprinkling of sesame seeds, some coriander, and a couple of lime wedges.