One of the pizza places that I love to go to is Yellow Cab. In my opinion, their pizza has the right thickness to the crust that holds the right amount of toppings. But what piqued my interest to this restaurant is their pasta called Charlie Chan. It’s a pasta mixed with a spicy-sweet, caramel-coloured sauce with chicken strips and shiitake mushrooms sprinkled with peanuts. Ever since I tasted this dish, I wanted to re-create it.
I stumbled upon a recipe over the internet that used a Char Siu sauce and tried it for myself. My first attempt ended up with a concoction of salty dish. I realized the culprit was the Char Siu sauce. It was on the salty side, and even if I dilute the sauce with water or use less, it won’t have the result that I wanted.
Another recipe used Java (peanut) Sauce, which eventually became one of the main ingredients for this recipe. It has the right amount of sweetness that is similar to the original dish. I did a few more adjustments and finally have my own version of the Yellow Cab’s classic.
Asian-style Chicken Pasta (serves 3-4)
300 grams spaghetti*
300 grams chicken breast or thigh fillet, sliced to strips**
150 grams button mushrooms, sliced (Shiitake mushrooms are preferred)
450 grams (1 bottle) Mama Sita Java sauce
4 tbsp oyster sauce
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp chili flakes
juice of 1 lemon, zest
juice of 1 orange, zest
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted (optional, for added crunch)
chopped chives for garnish (optional)
1 tsp canola oil for sautéing, 2 tbsp for pasta
2 tbsp salt (for pasta)
**I personally prefer chicken thigh fillet because it has more flavor, and also because breast fillet tend to break down or flake when you cook it. However, if you prefer a more healthy route, you can use the latter.
- Mix the chicken and oyster sauce in a bowl and marinate overnight.
- Fill a cooking pot with water, add oil and season with salt. Cover and put on high heat. Let it boil.
- In a small pot, put the remaining oil and sautée the garlic until slightly brown
- Put the chicken and sautée until light brown. 5 minutes.
- Add the mushroom and sautée for about 3 minutes.
- Put the java sauce (you can clean the remaining stuff in the bottle with a bit of water), lemon juice and orange juice. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes under medium heat.
- Season with pepper and chili flakes. You can add more according to your taste. Simmer uncovered for a few minutes and add the zests. Before turning off the flame, drizzle the sesame oil and cover.
- Once the pot of water boils, add the pasta and let it cook for about 7-8 minutes.
- Usually pasta cooking instructions would tell you to cook it until al dente (with a slight bite). However, in this case, you need it to be slightly undercooked. Drain the water and retain about 2-3 tablespoons of pasta water and then add the sauce. Simmer uncovered under medium heat, mixing every now and then, so that the pasta will cook with the sauce and it will absorb the flavor. 4-5 minutes.
- I usually like to leave it a bit saucy before turning off the flame because the pasta will continue to cook. The starch from the pasta will make the sauce thick (and eventually will be absorbed).
- Mix in roasted nuts. Transfer to serving dish. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve hot.
* This dish works well with wheat pasta because of the nutty texture of the pasta that goes well with the java sauce, however it takes a bit of time to cook. I would suggest adding 2-3 minutes when cooking the pasta and 4-5 minutes more when simmering the sauce with the pasta.