As much as I love eating out at fancy restaurants and watching TV shows like "Top Chef," the cooking that is closest to my heart is home cooking -- dishes that are humble and maybe a little homely but that feel like the food equivalent of a warm hug. This gingery chicken stir-fry is home cooking at its best: quick and simple to prepare, with a punch of flavor that manages to be both exciting and deeply comforting. Make it once and you may never call for Thai take-out again.
This was one of the first Thai recipes I ever mastered and it became pretty much an instant favorite. Like most stir-fries, the ingredient list is short and simple, but a magical transformation occurs once everything hits the pan, resulting in a finished dish that is somehow more than the sum of its parts. Ginger is the key to that magic; along with the umami-bomb combo of fish sauce and oyster sauce, it infuses the chicken and vegetables with a deep flavor in the hot wok or skillet.
Thai Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry (Gai Pad Khing)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (see note)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons grape seed, canola or other high-heat oil
8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1/4-inch thick)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1 small pepper)
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion (about 1/2 small onion)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, cut into matchstick-size pieces
Cooked white rice or brown rice, for serving
In a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Keep near the stove along with the chicken and vegetables.
Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Add the chicken in an even layer and let sear, undisturbed, for about 1 minute. Add garlic, stir and continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Chicken will be lightly browned, but not cooked through. Add the green onions, bell pepper, onions, ginger and sauce. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the bell peppers and onions are tender-crisp. Serve immediately, with plain white or brown rice.
Note: Oyster sauce is a sweet and savory sauce made with oyster extract. (You can also find vegetarian versions made from mushrooms.) Look for it in well-stocked supermarkets, Asian markets or online.
(Anjali Prasertong is a writer for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)