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For many families, Chinese take out is a go-to dinner option for a lazy, cozy night at home. Since “nights at home” have become the standard while we’re quarantining, it’s given a lot of us the time and inspiration to get creative in the kitchen and recreate some of our favorite "to-go" meals at home.
With some basic pantry staples and a handful of fresh ingredients, you can create a homemade Asian-inspired dinner the whole family will love. Here are the basic steps and items you’ll need to build a mix-and-match menu to suit any taste!
1. Choose your base, protein, veggies, and mix-ins.
There’s a reason Chinese restaurants can offer such a long list of menu items: Most dishes are variations of the same few basic ingredients. You can apply this principle to crafting your homemade take out meal -- and most of what you need is likely already in your fridge and pantry.
Choose from these basic components to build your menu. We’ve listed the most common ingredients found in Asian take out cuisine, but don’t be afraid to experiment with whatever you have on hand!
2. Cook your base.
Follow the package directions for your chosen rice or noodles and cook your base ingredient while you prepare the rest of the meal. We recommend looking for Chinese egg noodles in the grocery store if you’re cooking lo mein, but in a pinch, spaghetti noodles will do!
3. Season and sauté your veggies.
Chop up your veggies, season with salt and pepper, and toss in a heated wok or sauté pan with oil until softened. Use a neutral oil like vegetable or canola oil instead of olive oil to make sure your sauce’s flavors really shine through. Set the vegetables aside when cooked.
4. Prepare and pan-fry your protein.
Cut your protein into bite-sized pieces, season, and cook them in the same pan as the vegetables, also using vegetable or canola oil. For that classic crispy coating found in dishes like General Tso’s Chicken, simply coat the protein in cornstarch or flour before pan-frying and use a little extra oil.
5. Create a simple sauce.
Most sauces in Asian cooking are a combination of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and/or ginger, cornstarch, and a sweetener like sugar or honey. Just whisk the ingredients together and stir over low heat until the sauce thickens up.
Try one of these simple homemade sauce recipes that will go well with any of the ingredients listed above:
Just before your sauce looks ready, pour the mixture into the pan with your cooked protein and veggies and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes over low heat so they can absorb all the delicious flavors in your dish. If you’re making a noodle dish, add your cooked noodles here, too.
6. Add mix-ins, serve, and enjoy!
When your sauce is ready, it’s time to plate your meal and serve. If you’re using mix-ins like nuts or scallions, add them as a garnish to each bowl. For a truly gourmet Asian experience, place a delivery order of Asian Chicken Tacos from The Cookie Cups while you’re preparing your meal so you can enjoy them as an appetizer!
We hope this inspires you to try making your own Asian-inspired dinner at home. For more international cooking fun, we’re planning an “International Week” for our Kids Cooking Class camp this summer. Get the details and reserve your child’s spot here.