I learned about the genesis of this dish from Suvir Saran, an Indian chef in New York. This dish is Manchurian in origin and is based on an ingredient that is in almost every refrigerator. It's stir-fried chicken with ketchup, and before you turn your nose up, think how good ketchup can taste. In the version he cooked for me, Mr. Saran tossed cauliflower in a slurry of cornstarch and egg, then deep-fried it. The crust was exquisite, and the cauliflower perfectly cooked. But it was what happened next that really got my attention: He finished the cauliflower in a sauce, made in about three minutes, containing nothing more than ketchup, garlic and cayenne pepper.
- 1 ½ pounds boneless chicken, preferably dark meat, in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks
- ½ cup flour, more as needed
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons slivered garlic
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 cup ketchup
- Toss chicken with flour so that it is lightly dusted. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to high. When oil smokes, add chicken in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- When chicken browns on one side, toss it and cook until just about done: smaller pieces will take 5 minutes total, larger pieces about 10. Remove to a plate. Turn off heat and let pan cool for a moment.
- Add remaining oil to pan and turn heat to medium high. Add garlic and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add ketchup and stir; cook until ketchup bubbles, then darkens slightly. Return chicken to pan and stir to coat with sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.