Lunch Special Brown Sauce

It’s been nearly 10 days since I posted anything, the longest gap since I started this blog in September. Between visitors, Purim, rockets, a Med school event, food poisoning, or maybe it was a stomach virus, a culinary tour in Tel Aviv, and articles due I just didn’t have the energy. I didn’t even cook. For a few days I could barely eat.

Back in New York when I didn’t have the energy to cook we would just order in from our favorite Chinese Restaurant, Sammy’s Noodles. We would switch up what we ordered, but Chicken and Broccoli with brown sauce, a favorite since childhood, was always a must. What the brown sauce was, exactly, was always a mystery, one I figured was best left unsolved. We’ve found a few delivery options here that work in a pinch, but nothing that comes close to our vast network of possibilities available in New York. And we definitely don’t have Chinese food.

As soon as broccoli came into season here I knew I wanted to try to recreate that old lunch special standby, chicken with broccoli in brown sauce. I assumed that it was a fairly standard recipe that would be readily available. I was wrong. There are a million different versions online, all with vastly different ingredients and no agreement on what makes up the ubiquitous brown sauce. Serious Eats posed the question and got 33 responses all over the map.

So, I did what I always do when in doubt: look up a bunch of recipes, get the gist, and make one up myself using whatever I have on hand. I think the garlic, soy sauce, broth and corn starch are the key players and the other elements could probably be substituted with success. I don’t know if it’s my Chinese food deprivation talking, but my rendition of brown sauce tasted like the real thing to me! And honestly, it wasn’t so much more time consuming than ordering in.

Chinese Chicken or Tofu with Broccoli in Brown Sauce

Yield: 2 to 4 Servings

1 head broccoli, cut into florets and stem sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 cloves roasted garlic (optional, I had these on hand)
¼ cup soy sauce
1½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
¼ cup mirin
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound chicken or tofu, sliced or cubed

Blanch the broccoli (cook in boiling water for a few minutes). Drain and run under cold water so it stays bright green. Set aside.

Heat the sesame oil and chili oil (if using) in a large pan or wok. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and very lightly browned (don’t burn). Add the soy sauce, broth, mirin, honey, and fish sauce and stir to combine. Allow to boil and cook down, 7 minutes or so. Mix a small amount of the sauce with the corn starch to make a slurry, then stir into the sauce. Add the chicken or tofu and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through. Add in the broccoli and stir to combine. Serve with brown rice.

6 thoughts on “Lunch Special Brown Sauce

  1. German Mama

    I love stir-fries. They are always great quick weeknight dinners. Broccoli and chicken is a great combination. Thanks for participating in Cook Around the Globe.

  2. Kathy Phelan

    I felt as though I needed something really healthy to help offset the richness of the lemon posset. Also, have always wanted to be able to cook tofu that tasted good. This really does taste just like the brown sauce you get with Chinese takeout, and I sincerely enjoyed the tofu.

  3. Nikki

    Is cornstarch readily available in Israel? Does it have another name? I saw corn flour but wasn’t sure if that was the right thing…

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