Monday, November 8, 2010

Hungry? How About Some War Shu Gai with Bonus Shrimp Rings?

What dish are you most likely to order if you go to a Chinese restaurant?  One of my favorites is Almond Boneless Chicken, also known as War Shu Gai.  Never heard of it?  I'm not surprised.  I recently learned that it is a local dish, created somewhere in the Detroit area to appeal to American palates.  As disappointed as I am to find out it's not authentically Chinese, I still love it and wonder why it hasn't made it's way to Chinese restaurants in other parts of the country. 

Basically, War Shu Gai is boneless chicken that has been dipped into a light batter and fried.  It is served with either white or fried rice, a sauce/gravy for dipping or pouring over the dish, and garnished with almond slices.  Since you probably can't get it at your local Chinese restaurant, I'm going to show you how to make it.  It's simple, but can be a little time consuming.  If you've got a sous chef to help, all the better.

First, you need to get your oil heating.  You'll want it at 375 degrees to cook your chicken.  Any higher and you will likely burn the outside of the pieces before they are fully cooked on the inside.  Any lower and too much oil will be absorbed and you will have greasy chicken.  We use a deep fryer, but you can use a pan of oil and a candy thermometer if you don't have one.  (Side note:  we use our deep fryer outdoors, even in the winter.  It doesn't make the house smell greasy and their is much less mess to clean up.)   

We're going to use about 2 pounds of boneless chicken.  You can pound each piece to a uniform half inch thickness, or you can do what we do and cut the chicken into strips.  Either way, prepare your chicken and set it aside.

Now we'll make the batter (scroll down to the bottom for complete ingredient list), starting with the dry ingredients.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Add the vegetable shortening and cut it into the other ingredients with a fork or pastry blender until coarse crumbs start to form.

For the liquid ingredients, we need 1 cup of cold water and three egg yolks (save the whites, you can use them in your fried rice or make an omelet).  I find it easiest to use a measuring cup for this.

Next, beat the eggs and water together with a whisk until they are well blended.  Then, add them to the dry ingredients.

Mix well.  Your batter will probably be a little lumpy.  That's fine, it won't be a problem.

Now, if your oil has reached 375 degrees, you can start cooking.  Dip a piece of chicken in the batter (make sure it's well coated) and gently place it in the oil. 

Continue with several more chicken strips, being sure not to crowd the fryer.  Let the pieces cook for 5 to 7 minutes, using a wooden utensil to turn them if necessary.

Remove cooked chicken and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Transfer pieces to a baking sheet and place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of your chicken.

(When we make this dish, Mr. Willoughby handles the frying while I make the gravy so that they are both done at about the same time.  If you are working alone, you can make the gravy while the chicken is keeping warm in the oven.  This is also a good time to make your rice or fried rice.)

To make the gravy:  Over medium heat, melt three tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan.  Add three tablespoons flour and cook for one or two minutes, until the mixture starts to become golden.  Add three cups chicken stock and three tablespoons soy sauce.  Increase heat to medium high and continue to cook until sauce thickens and begins to simmer.  Turn heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

Ready to serve?  Place a heaping scoop of rice on plate, place chicken strips on top of rice.  Drizzle sauce/gravy on top and garnish with sliced almonds.
I forgot to add the almonds before I took this picture!
  As you can see, we also made some fried shrimp rings.  To make them, peel and devein 2 pounds of shrimp.  Remove the tails.

To make the rings, dip two shrimp in batter and place carefully in fryer with ends touching to form a circle.  Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, turning if necessary.

This batter is also great for fish.  You can substitute 1 cup of cold beer in place of the water to make a traditional beer batter. 

War Shu Gai

Batter -
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Gravy -
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Sliced almonds for garnish





5thsister said...

Su...question: is the cornstarch absolutely necessary? My body reacts badly to corn byproducts. Otherwise this recipe sounds like a must try!

Raoulysgirl said...

This reminds me of "Springfield Style Cashew Chicken." I never knew the "Springfield" part existed until Allrecipes! Apparently, it's a midwestern Cashew Chicken that was created for the same reason you mentioned. The only difference in the sauce, I believe, is the addition of oyster sauce. Of course, the nut is different...but I'm guessing a sub would work well either way!!! Sounds great!!!

Polly, I think the cornstarch is only added to make the batter a little "lighter." It is also included in the recipe I mentioned above that we make here. However, my sister uses only flour when she makes it. Hers results in a slightly denser coating. Hope that's a help!!!!

Willoughby said...

Polly - Christi is right, the cornstarch makes the batter lighter. I don't see why you couldn't sub flour.

Christi - Cashew Chicken sounds good, too! There are probably varieties of this dish under different names all over the country.

Purple Flowers said...

What time is dinner? :)

Kathy said...

Well, you had me at "dipped into batter and fried"! This dinner looks so good and easy, too. I always order crispy beef with pea pods or Mandarin Orange beef. All dipped and fried, of course!

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

is there enough for 2 more?

Betty Manousos @ CUT AND DRY said...

Wow! You cooked a winner!
They look so delicious!!

Now I am hungry.

Big big hugs!
B xx

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

Su, this looks so authentic--and by authentic, I mean like something I'd order in a Chinese restaurant--which I suppose is an ironic word choice since, evidently, the dish isn't authentically Chinese :)The chicken part looks really yummy, but I've never been sure about shrimp....

Pearl said...

Wow. You blow me away with your cooking!

Definitely not antediluvian. ha ha. :-) (It didn't work very well, did it? but it's all I've got.)


Attila The Mom said...

oh golly that looks fantastic!

abby jenkins said...

My Farmhouse Kitchen, Purple Flowers and I will be over at 7! I'll bring the sake!

What a great tutorial, Cooks Illustrated has nothing on you!

Jenny said...

This sounds delicious. Can you set an extra plate? Love the tutorial. And the shrimp rings are something I've never seen before but my husband would love them!

Joanna Jenkins said...

I was just back in Willoughby with my family and we ordered in a huge Chinese dinner-- As good as it was, nothing liked as good as THIS! Wow! You are an impressive cook.
Bon Appetite,
xo jj

Jenn Erickson said...

Yum! That sounds absolutely delicious! It reminds me of the chicken from "Sweet & Sour Chicken", but with a savory sauce, more like the type found on Egg Foo Young. I bet the almonds add a great crunch and flavor. Hmmmm...wonder if I could get my crew to try it?

digitaltats said...

Potato Starch ( Sweet Potato starch 0 Works also, it can be found in any chinese market