Soy Braised Pork Knuckle

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I went to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco the other day to see the Emperors’ Treasures exhibition.  One of the treasures was called “Meat Shaped Stone.” The director of the museum Jay Xu is from Shanghai as I am and we chatted about how growing up we all loved the braised pork belly that looked exactly like the stone on display. I felt inspired to make a Shanghainese braised pork knuckle after I left the museum.

When Angela and I started this blog nearly two years ago, we had set out to make very healthy food with lots of vegetables and very low fat. Angela has been a vegetarian since she was five or six years old and Audrey became a vegetarian after watching the film Food Inc two summers ago.  Angela, the food police of our family, lost interest in our joint venture a few months after we began as she started writing for her own blogs about topics that interested her more. Without Angela’s scrutiny, I slowly began to use more oil when I stir fried, full fat yogurt instead of fat free yogurt in my desserts and real wheat flour instead of almond flour or coconut flour when I baked.

Now that Angela has left for college and Audrey is taking a break from her vegetarianism, we have pork back in our lives again. I used to eat pork knuckle a couple of times a month in my twenties and thirties, but I hardly cooked any pork since Angela became a vegetarian. 

A Beatles Song Norwegian Wood came to my mind as I cooked this pork knuckle. Yes, this bird has flown. Angela is no longer here to say, oh that smell is disgusting mommy.

How I miss her!

Soy Braised Pork Knuckle

Ingredients:

2 cups Shao Xing Wine

4 cups water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark sauce

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn

1 clove anise

1 1/2 inch ginger, sliced

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon rock sugar or brown sugar

1 stick cinnamon

3 dried red chili pepper

1 pork knuckle

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Preparation:

Heat the oil in a medium pot on medium high. When the oil is hot, add ginger, garlic, anise, peppercorn, dried chili and cinnamon stick. Stir until aromatic.

Add the pork knuckle and brown it on all sides.

Turn stove to low and add soy sauce. Turn the pork knuckle a few times in the soy sauce mixture.

Add Shao Xing Wine and water. Turn stove to high and bring the pot to boil. Turn the stove to low and let simmer for 2 hours. 

Turn the stove to high and reduce the liquid to half. Serve on a bed of blanched or stir fried vegetables.

Note: The Shao Xing wine that one buys in the US is salty for tariff reasons. If your Shao Xing wine is not salty you can add more soy sauce. 

Very Cherry Snack Cake

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Angela finished a really stressful week, during which she took 3 AP tests.  Before that she had taken 3 SAT subject tests on Saturday.   With all the important standardized tests behind her, a little celebration is called for, and what’s a celebration without a cake?  So here it is.  Simple, delicious and very healthy.  Cherries are in season and they are one of our family’s favorite fruits.  I bought two boxes today, but they are so perfect that I couldn’t bear to alter them in anyway.  So I made the cake using frozen organic cherries instead and it turned out beautifully. 

Since the cake is packed with protein, it is a perfect dessert for Audrey, a vegetarian girl who is also a picky eater.  The left-over will be great for breakfast.

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Very Cherry Snack Cake (Gluten-free, No added sugar, Low-fat, Nutrient-rich)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup almond flour

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoon oat bran

6 tablespoon xylitol or sugar (I used xylitol)

1 tablespoon additional xylitol to make powered sugar for dusting

3 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt (I used Fage)

1 1/2 heaping cups pitted cherries (I used frozen organic dark tart cherries)

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

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Preparation:

Pre-heat oven to 350c.  Grease an 8×8 baking dish.

Mix all dry ingredients well in mixing bowl.  Beat the eggs with vanilla and pour into the mixing bowl.  Add yogurt and mix all ingredients until it is smooth.  Add the cherries and stir a little, but not too much.  Pour mixture into the baking pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center no longer sticks.  Cool on rack for about 15 minutes before slicing into 16 squares. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

I made powdered “sugar” in my coffee grounder with 1 tablespoon of xylitol. 

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Let’s Get Freekeh!

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On my Costco trip today, I saw something I hadn’t before — freekeh, which the autocorrect kept insisting is “fresh.”  Since I have two vegetarians at home, I am always looking to try new nuts or grains.  Standing by the grain isle, I instantly googled freekeh.  I learned that it is an ancient grain originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and it has been popular for centuries in the Arabian Peninsula. Technically it’s a type of roasted green wheat and the process of making the product seems quite arduous (but definitely worth it!) It contains very high fiber and protein and it also has a relatively low glycemic index, which means its energy is released slowly through out the day.  It is loaded with more calcium, iron and zinc than comparable grains such as quinoa.  I decided to give this Californian grown exotic grain a try today by putting a twist on Gina Homolka’s Mediterranean Quinoa Salad.

It turned out delicious — perfect for a warm summery spring day.  There is something magical about the combination of lemon, olive oil and feta.  And the kalamata olives give it a fruity pungent kick. Both girls prefer the nutty, fragrant taste of freekeh to the more earthy quinoa. 

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Mediterranean Freekeh Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked freekeh (you can also use quinoa or couscous)

2 1/4 cups water or broth

1/4 cup red onion, diced

1/2 – 3/4 lemon, squeezed

1/4 cup (about 10) kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cups cucumber, peeled and diced (from 1 English)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or diced

1/3 cup low-fat crumbled feta

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

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Preparation:

Cook freekeh in a rice cooker with 2 1/4 cup water, or according to package instruction.  Once cooked, fluff the grain and let it cool.

While the freekeh cools, dice all the vegetables. Add the red onion, olives, cucumber, tomatoes to the cooled quinoa, and squeeze 1/2 lemon over it. 

Drizzle the olive oil over the freekeh then add feta, salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Taste for salt and adjust as needed, add more lemon juice if needed.

Eat up!  Get freekeh!

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Adapted from:

skinnytaste.com

Living La Dolce Vita, Eat a Frittata

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The world is a good place.

I (Angela) took the SAT last Saturday and accidentally left my beloved TI-84 at Gateway High School, where I took the test. I didn’t realize my calculator was missing until several hours after the test ended, and I figured that by then someone had already taken my lovely away. These calculators are pretty darn expensive. I assumed that if anyone found my TI-84, they would probably take it for themselves or sell it.

My TI-84 has been with me since ninth grade and has absorbed so many tears that I’m surprised it still works. Together, we’ve made it through thick and thin. We’ve graphed limaçons in the dead of night. We’ve taken countless tests and done hours of homework. When I thought I had lost the calculator that is, in the vernacular, “bae,” I was devastated. That night, I went to my very first non-classical music concert but the whole time I was just thinking about my calculator. I threw my right-hand rule in the air to the beat of “Anna Sun” and mourned the loss of my beloved, which I was convinced I would never see again.

Out of all of my friends, I am definitely the most cynical. Last week, we watched the documentary Somewhere in Between on transracial adoption in Chinese class. I was positive that the man claiming to be the biological father of one of the adoptees was just trying to exploit money from an American family, but a DNA test revealed that he really was the father. By the end of the film, everyone in the class, boys and girls, had tears flowing freely down their faces – except for me. I was unamused and unshaken, unfazed by the cruelty of the universe that the film had revealed and skeptical of happy endings.

Later that week, however, I received an email saying that my calculator had been found unscathed and was waiting patiently for me. Elated, I returned to Gateway and reunited with bae. I am incredibly grateful that someone went to the trouble of tracking me down and allowing me to reclaim my darling. Our reunion cracked a hole through my jaded worldview. The world is such a wonderful place. Don’t worry. Be happy. Eat a frittata…

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Kale Potato Frittata

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 leek, sliced

1/2 shallot

1/2 yellow or white onion, sliced

2 bunches lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups boiled diced potatoes

4 whole eggs + 4 egg whites, beaten

3 tablespoons water

3 eggs on top of the frittata (optional)

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Note from Chef Chen:   I basically used up what was left in the fridge to make room for my Costco produce purchase.  I think a frittata is perfect for cleaning out the fridge on a weekend.

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Preparation:

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, sauté onion, leak, garlic and over medium heat, stirring, 5 minutes. Add kale, garlic and a pinch of salt; stir 5 minutes. Add potatoes.

Whisk eggs, egg whites, 3 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in kale-potato mixture.

In a large cast-iron skillet coated with cooking spray, cook egg mixture over medium-low heat 1 minute. Sprinkle thyme, oregano and parmesan on top. 

Transfer skillet to oven; bake until eggs are set and center is slightly runny, about  8 minutes. Broil until top is golden, 1 minute.

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Homemade Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt

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Angela is a junior in high school, which means that she will be applying to college this fall.  According to all the parents that I know who have gone through the college application process, it promises to be one of the most harrowing times in their lives. It seems that being a great student and a great child is simply not enough.  Apparently, the children nowadays need bios that include so many accomplishments that a college education would seem completely redundant.

While browsing the bookstore for a book about college application, I came upon a letter from a 21-year-old Andy Warhol answering Harper’s editor Russell Lynes’s request for biographical information:

Hello mr. lynes

thank you very much

biographical information

my life couldn’t fill a penny post card i was born in pittsburgh in 1928 (like everybody else – in a steel mill)

i graduated from carnegie tech now i’m in NY city moving from one roach infested apartment to another.

Andy Warhol.

The letter made me smile.  He didn’t bother to use punctuation or capitalization, except when it comes to his own name, but later that year Lynes gave Warhol one of his first jobs — to illustrate a John Cheever short story for Harper’s.  He would go on to establish himself as the pop icon of 20th century.

Warhol wouldn’t get into any college with that bio if he lived today.  Or maybe he would.  I’m sure the fatigued essay reader at Harvard or Princeton would appreciate very much the brevity of his essay.

It was fortunate that Andy Warhol’s mother didn’t read the letter before it was sent out.  Things might turn out differently, i.e. not as favorably, if she had decided to improve his biographical information.

So all I can do to help Angela is to make the best after school snacks.  I am confident that the healthy and delicious snacks I make will mean something in the process.

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Homemade Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups fat free plain Fage or yogurt of choice

A pinch of salt

4 packs Stevia

2 tbsp milk of choice

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp instant coffee

1/4 packed cup dried cherries, soaked and chopped or 3/4 fresh or frozen pitted cherries

4 tbsp shaved 86% dark chocolate bar

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Preparation:

Soak the dried cherries in about 1/4 cup warm water for about 30 minutes.  Chop the cherries and keep the water.

Chop or shave the chocolate.

Blend everything except chocolate and cherries in a blender.

In either an ice cream machine or a large airtight container, combine the first 5 ingredients. (For optimal creaminess and best texture, use the ice cream machine. However, it does work—and still tastes delicious—if you don’t have a machine.)

As the machine churns, add the shaved chocolate and chopped cherries.  Let churn until the ice cream is desired consistency.

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Adapted from:  chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Hoisin Orange Pork Chops with Vegetables

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Mondays are usually busy with all kinds of errands, but I managed to read a few more chapters of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up.  I learned today that I’m never supposed to ball up my socks.  It cracked me up when the author asked “This should be a time for them to rest.  Do you really think they can get any rest like that?”  My socks are supposed to be on holiday in my drawer.  Being balled up means that they are in a state of tension.  I wondered where she was gong with this until she showed me how to fold it and store it “the right way.”  It actually made sense.  I can’t wait to un-ball all my socks tomorrow and create a sock resort for them.  I will show you a photo of my relaxed socks if it all goes well.  

I’ve never been good at the lotus position meditation, but I can imagine the methodical smoothing out and folding of the socks to be a meditative process as cooking oftentimes is for me.

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Hoisin Orange Pork Chops with Vegetables

Ingredients:

For the Marinade:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp Asian cooking wine

Other Ingredients:

2 (6 oz total) 2-inch thick broccoli stems, spiralized

cooking spray

(2) 5 to 6 ounce boneless pork chop, 1” thick

2 cups broccoli florets

1 teaspoon 100% pure sesame oil

1/4 red onion, julienned

1 carrot, spiralized

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

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Preparation:

Combine the hoisin, orange juice soy sauce and wine with a whisk and reserve. Add pork chops to marinade and refrigerate for 2 hours.

While chops are marinating, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the broccoli in a wire basket and cook for about 3 minutes at a slow boil to blanch. Remove from pot and place in ice water to stop the cooking process. Let sit in ice bath for a couple minutes until chilled.

Remove chops from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for about 5 minutes before cooking. Remove from marinade, reserving the marinade for later. 

Heat a medium nonstick sauté pan on high heat, spray with oil when hot then place the steaks and cook 3 minutes on each side. Lower the stove to medium and cook another 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until the thermometer inserted to the center reads 140.  Transfer to a cutting board and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Add the reserved marinade to the skillet, reduce heat to medium-low, bring to a boil and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

Place the sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet, add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook on high 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and carrot noodles, season with salt and cook 3 minutes. Add the blanched broccoli and cook until hot.

Divide the vegetables unto 2 separate plates. Place the chops on a cutting board and cut into thin strips. Lay chops on top of the vegetables, top with sauce and serve.

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Recipe adapted from:  skinnytaste.com

Nutty Fruity Scones 2.0

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Saturday morning has been a peaceful couple’s time for Peter and me.  The girls are now at an age that they like to stay up late and and sleep until noon or for Angela afternoon on weekends.  Peter loves this scone recipe and I have made it many times for him as energy bars, snacks, and breakfast.  They are easy and quick to make and packed with nuts and fruits, so the combinations are as varied as there are nuts and fruits.

We sit here, sipping tea, reading the paper and talking about whatever that comes to mind.  Mostly we talk about the children.  I savor and cherish these simple moments.  Ever since the children were born, I feel more acutely the transient nature of all things.  Angela will be away in college in a year and half.  There is nothing we can do to stop time from fleeting; we can only stay present and pay attention to the immediacy and fullness of life.

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Nutty Fruity Scone 2.0

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup walnuts

1/3 cup pistachio nuts

1 large egg

2 tablespoons honey

Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt and soda.

Stir in dried fruit and nuts.

In a small bowl, combine egg and honey.

Stir wet ingredients into dry.

Use your hands to form dough.

Shape into desired shape.

(I used a little coconut flour to prevent sticking when I handled the dough.)

Bake at 350° on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes

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Soy Sauce Sriracha Glazed Cod

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Few things are more important than family dinner.  I missed our time around the dinner table the most when I was away on location and during the time when Angela was at Andover.  Well, I actually missed hugging and kissing them the most, but dinner time was a close second.  I savor every dinner that the four of us can eat together.  I want each and every one of our dinners to be beautiful and delicious.  I don’t want any of it to go to waste.  Cooking to me, especially for my loved ones, is an art and pleasure on par with performing in films.

Today, I revisited the salmon recipe that so many of you loved.  The same marinade worked perfectly for the rock cod.  Compared to the salmon, the cod took less time to cook.  This recipe makes 4 servings and Peter, the fish lover of the family, had three servings all by himself!

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Ingredients for Soy Sriracha Glazed Cod:

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce (or tamari* for gluten-free)  60mL 低盐鲜酱油

2 tablespoons honey  30 mL蜂蜜

1 tablespoon rice vinegar 15mL米醋

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (or to taste) 15mL甜辣椒酱

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger 15mL 姜末

1 tablespoon minced garlic 15mL 碎蒜

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions, for garnish 30mL青葱

(Above ingredients are for the marinade.)

1 pound rock cod fillet, cut into 4 (4-ounce) pieces 一磅左右石斑鱼

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil 25mL 麻油

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced 红甜椒

2 scallions, cut to one inch slices 青葱

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Preparation:

In a 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, honey, vinegar, Sriracha, ginger, and garlic. Add the cod, toss to coat evenly, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours, turning the fish once.

Remove the cod from the bag, reserving the marinade.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the sesame oil. Rotate the pan to coat the bottom evenly and add the cod with the bell pepper and the cut scallion. Cook until one side of the fish is browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip the cod and cook until the other side browns, about another 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the reserved marinade and cook until the fish is cooked through, 2 -3 minutes. 

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Lemon Dill Baked Cod

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It’s approaching midnight and I’m still trying to finish reading the scripts that I received from China.  The film market is booming in China and there are many opportunities for me to direct my next film, but I’m yet to find a story that’s exciting to me as well as suitable to the censorship standard.  I will keep looking.  And in the meantime, I will cook.

Who am I?  If we are what we do everyday, which I think is the closest answer to this impossible question, then I am a cook.  At least for now.  As I busied myself in the kitchen with my pink batik apron, I actually thought, “I should buy myself a pretty apron.”  I used to think about buying sexy and glamorous dresses.  The ever evolving I.

Dill & Lemon Baked Rock Cod

Ingredients:

3  large cod fillets

1 lemon

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 sleeve of Ritz Cracker, crushed

3 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation:

Marinate the cod in the white wine in a large ziplock bag or a plate for 30 minutes.  Pat dry.

Coat the fish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 of the dill.

Crush the crackers and mix in the 2 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining dill with fingers.

Preheat oven at 400F.

Bake the fish in a baking dish for 8 minutes and take the dish out of the oven, but leave the oven on.  Carefully discard the juice from the fish.  Squeeze half of the lemon juice on the fish and sprinkle the cracker mixture on top.

Return to oven and back for another 12 minutes.

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Spicy Chicken with Cashew Nuts

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I have had the good fortune of tasting the most amazing food while traveling for work in countries like Turkey, Spain, Italy, Malaysia, United Emirates and Morocco.  But inevitably by the 2nd week, I’d be missing Chinese food.  I remember frantically looking for a pack of instant noodles on the streets of St. Petersburg.  When the craving hits, it feels as if it were life and death.  Aiya, you can’t take the China out of the girl la. 

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In St. Petersburg

I was about to eat leftovers for lunch today when I suddenly craved for Chinese food.  To satisfy the urge, I made a quick stir-fry.  It was a simple dish, but very delicious.  It really hit the spot for me.

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Everyone should own a wok and try stir-fry.  It’s one of the fastest and simplest ways to prepare any food.

Spicy Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 small onion, cut into halves

6 finger-length dried red chilies, seeded

1/2 cup roasted cashew nuts, rinsed and drained

15 oz skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into bite size

3 scallion, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-in lengths

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Sauce:

3 tablespoon soy sauce (or Maggi seasoning sauce / Golden Mountain sauce)

2 tablespoon Chinese Cooking Wine +  1 tablespoon for marinating

1 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce

2 teaspoon xylitol or sugar, or to taste

Preparation:

Marinate the chicken pieces with 1 tablespoon of wine for 10 to 20 minutes.  Drain and pat dry with paper towel.  Mix the cornstarch into the meat.  (You can omit this step if you want to save time, but it does make the chicken taste better.)

Heat up a wok and add the oil. When the oil is heated, add the garlic, onion, dried red chilies and stir-fry until fragrant or when you smell the spicy aroma of the chilies. Add the cashew nuts and follow with the chicken. Stir-fry the chicken until the surface turns opaque. Add all the ingredients for the Sauce into the wok and continue to stir-fry until the chicken is cooked. Stir-in the scallion, dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.

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Recipe inspired by rasamalaysia