Stuff My Kid Eats
Being natives of the Pacific Northwest, my husband and I both love Asian food, and have been taking our toddler to Japanese and Thai restaurants since she was three weeks old. Meal after meal she’s observed us (with an equal amount of curiosity and amusement) as we use chopsticks to shovel rice and sashimi into our faces. Other than chicken katsu, she hasn’t very adventurous in what she was willing to try. It wasn’t until we took her to her first Chinese restaurant a while back that she really began to show an interest in Asian cuisine. Throughout dinner, she assumed the usual routine: request a peanut butter sandwich, settle for pork fried rice, beg for chopsticks, accidentally poke herself with them, resume fork usage, spill rice over the table and floor. But then, after the meal was over, the waitress brought us our check…and a fortune cookie. This crunchy, individually wrapped treat with a secret message inside was just the thing she needed to turn her into a believer. Now, whenever I set the table with chopsticks, her enthusiasm for dinner increases tenfold. It doesn’t matter what I serve (and we don’t even have to give her a fortune cookie at the end of the meal, either), we just have to be willing to talk about her trip to the Chinese restaurant for the rest of the evening: “Do you remember the restaurant with the fish tank, and the cookie with the paper inside, and the chopsticks, and the tiny glasses, and Mommy’s spicy soup, and the pretty flowers on the table, and Daddy’s funny broccoli, and the, and the, and the…?”
Sweet and Sour Molasses Chicken and Rice
This is a very loose (and healthy) adaptation of Chinese sweet & sour chicken. My family has been making it for years, and I’m not sure where the recipe came from anymore. I have a second generation photocopy that has some ingredients scribbled out and others written in, there are soy sauce drips across the top, and an entire corner is torn away. I’d love to credit the original author, but without forensic assistance, I don’t believe that would be possible.
Sweet & Sour Molasses Chicken and Rice
- 2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. molasses
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 cup dry basmati, jasmine, or other long-grain rice (or brown rice, if you prefer)
- 1¾ cup water
- 3 Tbsp. coconut or peanut oil
- ½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. molasses
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
- 4 Tbsp. jalapeños, diced (or mild green chiles, diced)
- 2 scallions, including green tops, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly mist a baking dish with cooking oil.
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir for one minute. Reduce temperature to low and simmer, covered for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked.
With a meat mallet, pound chicken breasts to a ½-inch thickness and prick all over with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, and place in baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, molasses, and sesame oil until combined. Pour molasses sauce into baking dish with chicken, turning chicken so that it’s fully covered. Bake for 15 minutes, turning chicken half way through. Remove baking dish from oven and carefully pour molasses sauce into a small bowl. Return chicken to oven and increase temperature to broil. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until chicken becomes brown and crispy at the edges. Remove baking dish from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, whisk together oil, vinegar, molasses, garlic, ginger, and jalapeños (or chiles) until combined. Once rice has finished cooking, pour vinaigrette into the rice pot and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide rice among 4 plates. Lay 1 breast of sliced chicken on top of rice, and spoon 1-2 Tbsp. molasses sauce over chicken. Garnish with sliced green onions.
- A plate of steamed broccoli would serve as a quick, easy side dish, and an excellent sponge for the delicious molasses sauce you don’t want to go to waste.
- Serve with sake; either Junami (rich, medium-bodied), or a sweeter variety.