Jimmy Wong’s Walnut Chicken

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Once-famous Chicago restaurateur Jimmy Wong took exception to the walnut chicken recipe that the White House released back in 1972–a favorite of then-president Nixon, known for his visits to China. That recipe included Chinese cabbage, which Wong said would never have been served to a dignitary. Wong’s recipe for “the REAL walnut chicken” has none of that leafy vegetable in it. It’s also got a step included–peeling walnuts–that’s fitting for an imperial-quality kitchen with lots of extra workers. We’re posting it in response to a request from reader Bob Kaplow for anything from Jimmy Wong.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 4 to 6 cups water
  • cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 cups raw chicken breast or thigh meat cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 4 thin slices fresh ginger
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup each bamboo shoots and button mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine or sherry
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water
  • Baby bok choy, baby corn, extra fried walnuts and snipped green onion to garnish

Instructions

  1. Boil water. Cook walnuts in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain in colander. Shock with cold water. Heat more stove-top water to boiling again and boil walnuts a second time for three minutes. Rinse. Drain. Remove skins. Heat cooking oil in deep fat fryer. Fry in oil at 360 until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Heat another 1/2 cup oil in saute pan. Add chicken and ginger slices. Stir fry for 3 minutes. Add stock, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Add soy sauce, wine and sugar. Cover and simmer all for 5 minutes. Add most of the fried walnuts–reserving a small handful for garnish. Pour in cornstarch slurry and toss until sauce has thickened. Turn out into a bowl and pack in. Invert this onto a platter you have lined with bok choy and baby corn. (OR: If you’d like, leave the walnut chicken in the bowl and center that on the bok choy and corn.) Garnish with remaining fried walnuts and some snipped green onion.

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