Friday Recipe: Chicken and Bean Sprouts

This is a very simple, authentic chinese dish. It’s a great example of what real chinese food
is like – it’s a lot lighter and more delicate than what’s typically passed off as Chinese food in the US. You should really go to a chinese grocery store for the bean sprouts: you’ll get them fresher, and a
hell of a lot cheaper. (My local chinese grocery sells bean sprouts for under $1/lb; at the local
grocery store, I can buy one-half a pound of sprouts for $4.) Like most real chinese food, a this isn’t
a full meal by itself – a real chinese meal has several contrasting dishes served together.


  • 1 lb. fresh bean sprouts.
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced thin.
  • 3 large dried black mushrooms.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt.
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce.
  • 2 tablespoon vodka.
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into long thin strips.
  • 3 scallions, green parts sliced thin.


  1. Remove the soaked mushrooms from the water, squeeze the excess water out, and
    slice them into narrow strips.
  2. Take the sliced chicken breast, and mix in 1 tablespoon of the
    soy, and 1 tablespoon of the vodka, and let it sit for five minutes.
  3. Heat a pot of boiling water, and blanch the bean sprouts for about 1 minute,
    then remove and rinse with cold water.
  4. Heat a wok on high heat, until it’s smoking hot. Put in about 1 tablespoon of
    oil, then add the chicken, and stir fry until it’s browned and just barely cooked through. Then remove it
    the wok, and put it aside. Try to leave as much of the oil from cooking the chicken as you can in
    the wok.
  5. Add a bit more oil to the wok – just enough to be able to cook the onions. Make sure the
    wok is really hot, then add the onions. The idea is to get them to brown on the outside,
    while the centers are still almost raw.
  6. As soon as they start to brown a bit, add in the bean sprouts, and stir around. This will cool
    the wok a bit, because of the bulk of the sprouts.
  7. Add the mushrooms, the salt, the sugar, the remaining soy and vodka, and the chicken.
  8. Stir around until the sprouts are nice and hot. Add the scallions, give it one last
    stir, and then dump it into a serving bowl.

Serve it with rice.

0 thoughts on “Friday Recipe: Chicken and Bean Sprouts

  1. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    The mushrooms need to be soaked until they’re soft. It depends on the grade and size of the mushrooms. The only real timing is how long it takes to hydrate the mushrooms so that they’re soft all the way through. It can vary from about 5 minutes, to about an hour.

  2. Kyle

    My wife, Jackie above, made this tonight. Thanks to both of you. It was quite fantastic. We had to improvise a little because we didn’t get enough bean sprouts, but all in all, it was really good and flavorfull. What other types of dishes would this be served with?

  3. Adam

    Is vodka a substitute? Would sake (or another rice wine) generate a meaningful difference in flavour?
    A dash of sesame oil would complement the soy and onions – I always throw a bit in when “wokking”

  4. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    The vodka is a substitute for rice wine. It’s there more for how it affects the way that things cook then for flavor. You can substitute a *very* dry sake – make sure it’s one of the higher alchohol ones.
    I add sesame oil to most chinese dishes, but not this one. The flavor of really fresh bean sprouts is subtle, and I think that the sesame tends to overpower it.

  5. andrea

    I made this the other night and the family decided that it’s a “keeper” recipe! Alas, couldn’t find the special mushrooms, so it lacked that lovely texture quality.
    I’ll chime in with Kyle — would would be some nice dishes to have with besides the rice?

  6. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Andrea, Kyle:
    This dish is neutral enough that it would work with a wide range of other things. The main trick for a chinese dinner is that you want contrasts. Since this is a light, mild dish, it would go well with something a bit heavier or spicier.
    So, for example ma-po tofu would be great. The traditional recipe for that is basically ground meat (usually pork), tofu, and spicy fermented bean sauce.
    Going in a different direction, it would be fantastic with a roast duck.
    A chinese meal would also pretty much always include a vegetable dish – something like a simple stir-fried chinese broccoli, cooked with just some garlic, chicken stock, and salt. The chinese broccoli is a good one to go with this because it’s got a strong, slightly bitter flavor which is nicely different from the bean sprouts.

  7. andrea

    Mnn… MaPo Dofu is one of my favorites! Maybe next Friday, pretty-please?
    Funny, I was going to do some broccoli as a side dish when I made the chicken and sprouts, only to find that I had run out of garlic, the horror. It’s really hard to cook without any Alliums! (garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives et cetera)

  8. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    I’ll see. I haven’t made ma-po in a long time, so I need to figure it out again :-).
    Running out of garlic is really a tragedy. For me, I think it’s impossible to cook without some member of the onion family: there’s not a single recipe that I cook that doesn’t call for at least one of them. A few years ago, I did a big new-years eve party for a bunch of friends, one of whom was allergic to onions and shallots. It was astonishing how hard it was to cook, even though I could still use scallions and garlic, which he was OK with. For some dishes, I gave up and just warned him not to eat them.


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