This recipe is part of our collection of Everyday Chinese Meals. Sign up for our newsletter to receive family-friendly activity, recipe and craft ideas throughout the year!
I’m fortunate to live near Chinatown, which means my family can decide to cook a Chinese meal for dinner pretty much anytime we choose. Bearing in mind that convenient access to Chinese ingredients remains a luxury in many parts of the country, I try to help out on this site by planning full menus of weeknight meals using only a trip to a suburban American grocery store and a well-stocked pantry at home.
This week I chose to build from a single simple ingredient, a whole chicken. Chicken represents happiness and health, which seemed like a good foundation for the week, and I liked the idea of seeing how I could creatively use the whole bird.
One technical note before we get started. The recipes below are based on a 6 pound chicken to feed a family of four. You can supplement with an extra chicken breast for each additional person in your family. Though I love buying a fresh chicken from Chinatown, complete with head and feet, a standard roaster from your local supermarket will work just as well.
Alright, let’s go! First, add these fresh items to your shopping list for your weekly trip to the local supermarket:
□ 1 6-pound chicken
□ 12 ounces ground pork
□ 4 eggs
□ 12 green onions
□ 1 6-inch piece of ginger
□ 1 head of baby lettuce
□ 1 pound baby spinach
□ 1 large cucumber
□ 1 head garlic
□ 3/4 cup unsalted peanuts
Next, check your pantry to make sure you picked up the following items during your last trip to Chinatown or your closest Chinese market. All of these staples are listed in our site reference, How to Stock Your Pantry for Everyday Chinese Cooking.
I’ve starred the items below that you may be able to find in some form at your local supermarket, in case you’ve run out at home.
□ 15 dried (or fresh) Chinese mushrooms*
□ 2 cans water chestnuts*
□ Bean (or rice) noodles*
□ Jasmine rice*
□ Shaoxing rice wine
□ Black rice vinegar
□ Sesame paste (or smooth peanut butter*)
□ Soy sauce*
□ Chili sauce*
□ Sesame oil*
□ Vegetable oil*
□ Sichuan peppercorns
Monday: White Cut Chicken
Start the week with a delicious plate of white cut chicken, featuring the addictive ginger scallion dipping sauce. This is a hearty meal to kick off the week and the mild flavor of the gently-poached chicken serves as a good foundation for the rest of the recipes in this plan. Serve with rice and a vegetable of your choice.
Prior to serving, reserve the chicken stock the recipe produces, along with the chicken you’ll need for the rest of the week’s recipes. Pick the chicken carcass clean to collect 9 ounces of shredded chicken, then set aside 1 1/4 pound of breast, thigh and drumstick meat. This should leave you with about 1/2 of the chicken to serve for the week’s first meal on Monday night.
Tuesday: Stir Fried Chicken in Lettuce Leaves
This dish is a southern Chinese classic, and kids will have a lot of fun as they struggle to corral their lettuce leaves stuffed with filling. Adults, meanwhile, will appreciate the savory chicken, pork and mushroom flavors, along with the contrast between the warm filling and the cold lettuce leaves. Serve with rice, which does a great job of blending well with any stray bits of filling that fall from the lettuce parcels.
Wednesday: Bang Bang Chicken
Bang bang chicken is a great meal for a warm night, a refreshing Sichuanese cold dish that combines vibrantly contrasting flavors from a tangy sesame dressing, chicken, cucumbers and bean thread noodles. This dish is a notable flavor departure from the others in this meal plan, so it’s a perfect choice to break up the week.
Thursday: Chicken and Mushroom Soup
A dinner soup, if ever there was one. Rich and hearty, filled with mushrooms and strips of chicken, this soup nevertheless retains a smooth silkiness from the egg whites blended into your homemade chicken stock. Serve with bread or a salad, if you want to add more heft to the meal, but I’ve found that a bowl of this soup is filling enough to be sufficient on its own.
Friday: Kung Pao Chicken
Perhaps it’s fitting to conclude a week of home-cooked Chinese meals with the Friday night takeout classic, kung pao chicken. Usually sweetly redolent in a gloopy sauce at the restaurant, making kung pao chicken at home produces a nuanced set of hot-and-sour flavors. Perfect this version and you can pair the sauce with other seafood, pork or vegetable combinations. Serve with rice.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this weekly meal plan, based entirely off a single whole chicken. If you keep the chicken bones from the first night’s white cut chicken, you can even use them for another round of chicken stock in the future!
Your turn! What tips can you share from your family’s recipes? Want to ask a question before you start cooking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!