Chicken, Shiitake and Watercress Stir-Fry

We loved this stir-fry which gets deep complexity from Chinese fermented chile-bean sauce, also called toban djan, found in the Asian section of well-stocked supermarkets. Chicken, Shiitake and Watercress Stir-Fry comes together in a snap and is great with rice—preferably steamed with homemade chicken stock for a boost of flavor.

The original recipe from Fine Cooking called for only one pound of chicken. The smallest package of thighs I could buy was a little over 1-1/2 pounds, and I used the entire amount, and therefore adjusted some of the other ingredients. What baffles me is, we barely got three servings out of the enlarged proportions, and the original said it would serve up to 4—if you eat like a mouse maybe.

Three bunches of watercress may seem overkill, but once it is de-stemmed and wilted into the stir-fry, it almost disappears. The recipe below has been altered to fit our changes and serve 3-4 adults.


Chicken, Shiitake and Watercress Stir-Fry

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. sake or Shaoxing
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. canola or other neutral oil
  • 2 Tbs. Chinese chile-bean sauce; more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 3 medium bunches watercress, stemmed (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. rice vinegar


  1. Put the chicken in a medium bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, the sake, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
  2. Heat a wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the chicken to the pan in a single layer. Leave the chicken undisturbed for about a minute before stirring, and then cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and partially cooked, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.
  3. Return the pan to high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the chile-bean sauce, and ginger to the pan, and stir to combine.
  4. Add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 2 minutes.
  5. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Stir in the broth and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the watercress, vinegar, and more chile-bean sauce to taste. Toss until the watercress wilts. Serve hot.

Adapted from a recipe by Lisa Russell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s