One of the more interesting aspects of American Chinese cuisine is that like the cuisines that shaped influenced it – China’s diverse fabric of techniques, ingredients, and traditions – it has developed its own regional specialties. New England has its Chop Suey. The upper Midwest has – of all things – egg foo young sandwiches. My hometown of Columbus Ohio has War Su Gai.
Don’t be surprised if it’s not a dish you’ve ever seen on the takeout menu. I really is apparently a local thing – mostly unique to the Columbus and Detroit areas, though I swear I remember my dad ordering it at a place in Sudbury, Ontario. It was one of his favorite dishes.
War Su Gai is a battered fried chicken cutlet (or in some cases chunks of chicken) topped with a iridescent yellow ginger gravy, sliced scallions, and fried almonds (or sometimes peanuts) and served over a bed of shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce. You can’t swap in fancier greens -they don’t work The lettuce isn’t just a garnish,, the watery crunch of those lettuces are integral to the dish.
Most places you’ll find it it’s probably served with rice, but I tend to eat it almost as an appetizer – just shoveling mouthfuls of delicious hot from the fryer chicken and sauce and crisp lettuce and crunchy nuts … it’s an amazingly satisfying dish.
Chicken Thigh War Su GaiCourse: Main, AppetizersCuisine: American Chinese, Chinese, American
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
½ cup corn starch
½ cup AP flour
aprox ¼ cup cold water
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt (divided)
Shredded Iceberg or Romaine Lettuce
¼ cup chopped blanched almonds, marcona almonds, or roasted peanuts
Oil for frying
Sliced green onions/scallions for garnish
- Ginger Gravy
1 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ cup water
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp kosher salt
- Season the chicken thighs with ½ tsp of kosher salt and set aside while you prepare the batter.
- Whisk together the corn starch, flour, and remaining ½ tsp salt.
- Beat the egg well.
- Whisk the egg, and water into the dry ingredients to form a fairly thin, but smooth batter.
- Set up your fryer, dutch oven, or a heavy bottomed pan with at least 1 ½ inches of oil.
- Heat the oil to 325°F.
- Working in batches, dip each piece of chicken into the batter and carefully lower into the hot oil oil.
- Fry at ~325°F until well browned and crispy.
- Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce, topped with ginger gravy, sliced scallions, and chopped nuts.
- Ginger Gravy
- In a thick bottomed pan, bring 1 ½ cups of Asian style chicken stock to a simmer.
- Add the turmeric (this gives it the distinctive yellow color), ginger and garlic and simmer until reduced to a little more than 1 cup.
- Strain out the solids and return the liquid to the pan and return to a low simmer.
- Whisk together ¼ cup of water and 1 tbsp corn starch to form a smooth slurry.
- Whisk the slurry into stock and simmer until thickened.
- Add lemon juice, and season with salt to taste.
Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!