Since the pressure to make an impressive feast is off the table, so to speak, my Christmas day is about hibernating on the couch with loved ones and indulging in the most traditional part of Jewish Christmas: Chinese food.
This American holiday tradition stems from the notion that it was once the most convenient option, since Eastern European Jewish and Chinese immigrants were neighbors in New York’s Lower East Side. Due to the lack of open restaurants on Christmas day, hungry Jews (as if there’s another kind) came together with their Chinese non-Christmas-celebrating counterparts to eat.
There’s something so festive about the cracking of a pair of chopsticks and reaching into those lantern-like Chinese takeout containers, as if digging for treasure — in my case, the little nuggets of crispy chicken that might have fallen to the bottom of the box.
For me, however, a big part of relaxing with the family involves rummaging through the kitchen and cooking up a (simple) storm — preferably one that requires very few pots and pans — then cozying up in front of a long movie with a big bowl of whatever I’ve rustled up.
This year, I’ll be making my own sesame chicken lo mein. It’s messy, nourishing, and will probably be ready faster than the takeout arrives at your door.
For the lo mein:
- 250g dry thin egg noodles
- 300g tenderstem broccoli, washed, tough ends removed
- 6 spring onions, roughly chopped
- ½ chili, finely sliced diagonally into rings
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 white onion, finely sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely julienned (cut into matchsticks)
- 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp honey
- vegetable oil
- sesame oil
For the chicken:
- 3 chicken breast filets, cut into ½ inch slices
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp plain or rice flour
- 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
- salt and black pepper
- ¼ tsp chili powder
- 1 ½ Tbsp honey
- ½ tsp chili flakes (optional)
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- 3 Tbsp sesame seeds (toasting optional*)
- ½ red chili, finely sliced diagonally into rings
- sesame oil
- Marinate the chicken in a bowl with the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil.
- Heat a large pot or deep frying pan on medium-high heat. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and add the broccoli to the pan. Spread the pieces out so they all touch the bottom. Allow them to lightly sear on one side, about 3 minutes, and turn them over to do the same on the other. Pour ¼ cup water into the pan and cover for a minute, to steam and slightly soften the broccoli. Season with a pinch of salt, remove from the pan while still bright green, and set aside for later.
- Add 1 tsp vegetable oil to the pan, followed by the spring onions. Allow them to soften and become slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside with the broccoli.
- Make the chicken. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, sesame seeds, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the chili powder. Remove any excess marinade from the chicken slices (reserve the marinade for later) and coat well in the flour mixture.
- Heat 3 Tbsp vegetable oil in the same pan and fry the chicken for about 4 minutes on one side, until a dark golden crust has formed. Turn the pieces over and do the same on the other side. Transfer onto a plate.
- If needed, add another Tbsp vegetable oil to the pan and sauté the onion until soft and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and chili, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add ¼ cup water to the pan to help the carrots soften slightly and toss. Once the liquid has evaporated, set this mixture aside with the other vegetables for later.
- Add the honey and chili flakes into the leftover chicken marinade. Pour this mixture into the pan and allow it to bubble and thicken into a syrup. Gently toss the chicken pieces in the mixture until they are coated well. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the noodles for 2 minutes less than instructed.
- Make the sauce for the noodles. Combine the soy sauces, rice wine vinegar, mirin, honey, and 1 Tbsp sesame oil and pour into the pan. Let it bubble a little to allow the alcohol flavor in the mirin to cook off, then add the onion and carrots, cooked broccoli, and spring onions. Toss in the sauce then add the noodles, mixing them thoroughly.
- To serve, top the noodles with the chicken, toasted sesame seeds, remaining sliced chili, sliced spring onion, and a good drizzle of sesame oil.
*To toast the sesame seeds, pour the them onto to a small baking tray and place them in 355 degree F oven for 5-7 minutes, or until golden.