Better than takeout. Make Chinese favorites cheaper and healthier at home.

Sichuan-Style Chicken with PeanutsSichuan-Style Chicken with PeanutsBefore I moved to Vermont, I had a weakness for Chinese food. I lived in San Francisco and when I headed for home from working late, I was exhausted. I'd order Chinese takeout from one of dozens of delicious local Chinese restaurants and chow down.

Now, since I don't live near any good Chinese restaurants, I turned to making some of my favorites like Sichuan-Style Chicken with Peanuts at home (see recipe below). The silver lining is that I can make healthier versions of Chinese-restaurant classics, with perfect fresh produce, and I get to eat them when they're hot and sizzling straight out of my wok. (Scallop & Shrimp Dumplings and Kung Pao Tofu turn out really well too.)

I'm not the only one who would benefit from making healthier Chinese food at home. EatingWell's recipe for Sweet & Sour Chicken was developed for a family who needed a little help eating healthier and avoiding the Chinese-takeout trap. Their story, and more than 175 of our favorite comfort-food recipes, appear in our new cookbook, EatingWell Comfort Foods Made Healthy.

In the meantime, make your Chinese dinner delicious with this Sichuan-Style Chicken with Peanuts.

Our version of Sichuan-style chicken is just as satisfying as the classic Chinese favorite, but healthier and is ready in 25 minutes! The piquant Sichuan sauce (which doubles easily) works well with almost any stir-fry but particularly enhances dishes with meat, fish and poultry. When stir-frying chicken, always spread the pieces in the wok and let them cook undisturbed for 1 minute before stirring. This allows the chicken to sear and prevents sticking. To smash the ginger, use the side of a cleaver or chef's knife.

Sichuan Sauce
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons Chinkiang rice vinegar (see Tip, below) or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more to taste

Chicken
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon Shao Hsing rice wine (see Tip, below) or dry sherry
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 1/2-inch-thick slices ginger, smashed
2 cups sugar snap peas (8 ounces)
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 scallion, minced

1. To prepare Sichuan sauce: Whisk broth, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch and crushed red pepper to taste in a small bowl.
2. To prepare chicken: Combine chicken, rice wine (or sherry), soy sauce, cornstarch and garlic in a medium bowl; mix thoroughly.
3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl oil into the pan, add ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Carefully add the chicken mixture, spreading it out. Cook until the chicken begins to brown, about 1 minute. Using a spatula, stir-fry for 30 seconds. Spread the chicken out again and cook for 30 seconds. Continue stir-frying until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes. Add snap peas and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir the Sichuan Sauce, swirl it into the pan and stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened and glossy, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to a platter (discard the ginger) and sprinkle with peanuts and scallions. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings, 1 cup each.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 273 calories; 12 g fat (2 g sat, 6 g mono); 66 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 28 g protein; 3 g fiber; 177 mg sodium; 427 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (30% daily value), Iron (15% dv).

TIPS: Chinkiang is a dark, slightly sweet vinegar with a smoky flavor. It is available in many Asian specialty markets. If unavailable, balsamic vinegar is an acceptable substitute.

Shao Hsing (or Shaoxing) is a seasoned rice wine. It is available in most Asian specialty markets and some larger supermarkets in the Asian section. An acceptable substitute is dry sherry, sold with other fortified wines in your wine or liquor store. (We prefer it to the "cooking sherry" sold in many supermarkets, which can be surprisingly high in sodium.)

By Jessie Price

EatingWell food editor Jessie Price's professional background in food started when she worked in restaurant kitchens in the summers during college. She started out testing recipes for EatingWell and then joined the staff here full-time in 2004 when she moved to Vermont from San Francisco.



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