Wok-Cooked Chicken with Nuts and Fruits

Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Charles Phan was born in Vietnam, but his parents came from China, and he's an all-time pro stir-fryer. In this basic dish, he combines a number of semi-exotic ingredients but is quick to point out that, as in all stir-fries, you can substitute freely.

This is fortunate, because you may have a hard time finding fresh gingko nuts, which are soft and meaty; you should, however, be able to find dried Chinese dates (also called jujubes) in most Asian markets. In any case, the idea here is to use a few different types of nuts and dried fruit, so each bite tastes different. I wouldn?t hesitate to include raisins, "regular" dates, or filberts (hazelnuts).

Serve this, of course, with plain white rice.

1/2 cup peanut oil (preferred), or neutral oil like corn or canola, as needed
1 pound boneless chicken meat, preferably from the thigh, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup sake or rice wine
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts and dried fruit (Charles used fresh gingko, dried Chinese dates, raisins, cashews, and walnuts)
1/2 cup trimmed and chopped scallions
Salt and black pepper if necessary

1. Heat a wok or large frying pan over very high heat until smoking. Add half the oil and, a few seconds later, as much chicken as will fit in one layer (you may have to cook the chicken in two batches). Cook, stirring infrequently, until the meat loses its pinkness, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, drain out most of the oil, and return the pan to the heat.

2. Add the garlic and stir once, then immediately add the stock, sake, fish sauce, and sugar. Stir once or twice; if the mixture dries out (at this or any other point) add a splash of water. Add the nuts and fruit and stir for 30 seconds. Return the chicken to the pan, along with the scallions. Taste, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed, and serve.