If Yan Could Cook. . .

Chicken and Celery Stir-fry

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The above photo is not in my kitchen. Life moves quickly: from now on, very likely, I will be cooking in a different kitchen, one with stainless steel countertops and red walls, one I share with someone else.

In a few months I start grad school in a city with a perpetually wet chill and almost no daylight. Many mornings there I would catch myself waiting for the sun to rise at eleven a.m., realizing that it wasn’t going to, and the day was going to pass completely in a dark, gray haze. I lived there in a second, deeper haze of allergies; it’s hard to see past the itch on the inside my skull. It’s a place full of bad memories and good memories rewritten as links in a chain of regret. For whatever reason, whenever I visit, I never go to see the only good thing there: the ocean. I think its symbolism has begun to overwhelm me, its rhythm following me for years – not merely a link in the chain, but the medium in which it resides. All my mistakes and miseries suspended in seawater.

My father makes this dish, minus the red chili. As I cooked I thought of myself as a child or a young teenager or that static age one returns to in their parents’ house, sitting alone at our old kitchen table or their new IKEA bar, picking the celery and chicken out of their pooling juices with chopsticks. My parents eating on the couch, watching the news in the dark, the grim, stern local news anchor’s voice in the background, the eerie blue television shadows on the wall. Going back feels like failure, like I never left.


It’s still tasty though. Several bunches of green onions are cut such that the whites are chopped fine and the greens are left in big strips (more like a vegetable than a flavouring). Chicken thighs are chopped quite small and stir-fried with plenty of minced garlic and the green onion bottoms, adding a couple tablespoons of soy sauce in the process. This is cooked until the chicken has started to crumble a little bit on the outside, resulting in a chicken bits-soy sauce-oily liquid that tosses easily with big hunks of celery and the greens of the green onions. A handful of dried red chilies, crushed, also go in the mix. The celery in this dish is best left pretty crisp, not cooked long. Served over rice for a 20-minute weeknight dinner for two, hold the weary nostalgia.


Written by skimfu

March 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Asian, Chicken

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