Chicken stir-fry is a classic Asian favorite that's quick and easy to make. Coconut milk makes an excellent addition to a stir-fry sauce as an interesting alternative to traditional sauce thickeners such as flour and cornstarch. This dish is hearty, rich, simple and versatile, and works well for any season.
Chicken for stir-fry should be raw and cut into thin, 1-inch slices. Coconut milk is a thick liquid with a creamy, smooth texture and a mild, slightly sweet taste. It's made by straining water through coconut flesh and contains no animal milk. Though it does appear in some Chinese and Caribbean dishes, coconut milk is most commonly used in Thai and Indian cuisine. It mellows and blends the strong flavors and heat commonly used in these cuisines, and gives them an added richness.
Chicken stir-fry with coconut milk is typically made in a Thai style using chicken, fresh vegetables, soy sauce, oyster or fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, chilies, chopped green onions, canned coconut milk and sugar. To preserve their color and quicken the cooking process, most vegetables should be blanched -- meaning boiled very briefly in salted water -- before they're stir-fried. First, the vegetables and chicken are tossed in a very hot oiled wok or high-sided pan. When they're almost cooked, the garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chilies and lime juice are added, and the mixture is tossed further over high heat. Finally, coconut milk, water and sugar are added to deglaze the pan. The mixture simmers until it's thick, and then is topped with cilantro and green onions.
This stir-fry can be poured over rice, or, for a more exotic dish, over thick rice noodles. Curry powder can be added to make the dish more savory and rich. Lemon juice can be substituted for lime juice, and red pepper flakes or hot sauce can be substituted for fresh chilies. Any firm-fleshed variety of vegetable works well in a stir-fry dish, including carrots, broccoli, snow peas, zucchini and cabbage. For added flavor, add a small amount of sesame oil to the stir-fry as it cooks.
Chicken is high in protein and relatively low in saturated fat and calories. Skinless chicken breast that has been trimmed of all fat is the leanest option. Coconut milk is high in saturated fat and calories, but contains high amounts of iron, magnesium, folates and phosphorous. Light versions of coconut milk are available.
Vegetables add fiber, vitamins and minerals to this dish without adding fat or calories, so the more you use, the better. To lower the salt content in this dish, use low-sodium soy or oyster sauce, or decrease the amounts of these ingredients.