Cooking With The Godmother: Lao Gan Ma Black Bean Chicken
My blog is all about cooking “authentic” Sichuan food. But my definition of authentic doesn’t mean always using specific recipes, it just means cooking Sichuan food the way it would be cooked in Chengdu. So I do not feel guilty about this shortcut recipe for black bean chicken, since I know that people in Sichuan cook this way and would eat this in a heartbeat. People all over China—and increasingly the world—love Lao Gan Ma and cook with her often.
My ode to The Godmother—China’s Best Chili Oils and Sauces—on this blog is far and away my most popular post, so I figured that many of you might want to know what I actually cook with her. I was also inspired to write this recipe up after Epicurious put a shortcut recipe for morning buns that used packaged crescent roll dough up on their website and some fans were appalled, calling it a “mom recipe.” A writer at the site took up the cause and defended mom cooking, and so do I. Even though I cook almost entirely with non-processed foods, let’s just be real and acknowledge that all moms—or anyone responsible for putting meals on the table day in and day out—love a shortcut.
My mom recipes often involve the Godmom. One of my easy favorites that still feels like a real Sichuan dish and pleases Fong Chong’s made-in-China palate is black bean chicken. LGM’s Black Bean oil (or the Chili Oil With Black Bean variant) is a super-umami mix of preserved black soy beans and chili peppers. I mix and match whatever vegetables I have in the fridge with the chicken bits, pour in my spicy Lao Gan Ma-concocted sauce and I’m done. Thank you, Godmother, for the weeknight save.
In this version, I marry stir-fried chicken with a kind of dry-fried green bean, charred but crisp, and with sweet, caramelized white onion. Sometimes I use bell peppers. Or celery. We love celery. You could use vegetables exclusively. I usually omit the aromatics—ginger and garlic—because this is a shortcut recipe, I’m trying to save prep time, and Lao Gan Ma already packs so much flavor that you can get away without them.
Just use your own favorite ingredients and stick with the proportion of ingredients to sauce for a winning combination and a mom recipe to be proud of.
- 1 pound dark meat chicken, cut in small, ½-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 heaping tablespoons Lao Gan Ma Chili Oil With Black Bean
- 2 tablespoons Chinese light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon Chinese dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 8 ounces thin green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
- 1 white onion, cut in large chunks and separated
- Marinate chicken cubes in the Shaoxing wine and salt while you mix the sauce. Combine the Lao Gan Ma Black Bean sauce, light soy sauce, chicken broth, dark soy sauce and sugar in a bowl or measuring cup.
- Heat wok over a high flame until wisps of heat starts to rise from it. Add 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil, swirl it up the sides of the wok, and heat until quite hot. Add chicken cubes in one layer and leave undisturbed to cook and sear on one side. Flip the chicken, sear on the other side, and stir-fry until fully cooked. Remove chicken from the wok and set aside.
- In a separate pot, bring water to a boil and parboil green beans for about 2-3 minutes, until partially cooked but still crisp. Drain and dry well.
- Clean wok, return to flame, and add 2 tablespoons oil. When oil is hot, add green beans and stir-fry over medium-high flame until they begin to char and are done to your liking. Remove green beans and set aside.
- Add a bit more oil to the wok, and add onion. Stir-fry until it starts to char and caramelize. Add back the green beans and chicken. Pour the sauce in and combine all ingredients well. Stir-fry briefly and splash in a bit more broth if it seems dry. Serve hot.