Lunch Special Chicken or Tofu with Broccoli and Brown Sauce

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Lunch Special Chicken or Tofu with Broccoli and Brown Sauce
Author Notes

Nothing says dirt cheap dinner like Chinese take out (at least that’s the way it used to be). The $5 lunch special, often too large for one person to finish, has come through numerous times in a crunch for dirt cheap lunch AND dinner. Unfortunately Chinese food isn’t big in Israel so we’ve been missing our chicken with broccoli and brown sauce, an undisputed if cliche favorite since childhood. As soon as broccoli came into season here it was the first thing I wanted to make.

Probably for good reason, I had never given much thought to what goes into the ubiquitous brown sauce. I assumed that it was a fairly standard recipe that would be readily available. I was wrong. There are a million different versions online, all with vastly different ingredients and no agreement on what makes up the sauce.

So, I did what I always do when in doubt: look up a bunch of recipes, get the gist, and make one up myself using whatever I have on hand I have made it with both chicken and the even healthier, cheaper, vegetarian tofu and both are great. If you want to splurge, beef would probably work too! I don’t know if it’s my Chinese food deprivation talking, but my rendition of brown sauce tasted like the real thing to me! And it was cheaper – and not so much more time consuming – than ordering in. —kmartinelli

  • Serves
    2 to 4

  • 1

    head broccoli, cut into florets and stem sliced

  • 2 tablespoons

    sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    chili oil (optional)

  • 6

    cloves raw garlic, minced

  • 6

    cloves roasted garlic (optional, but adds deliciousness)

  • ¼ cups

    soy sauce

  • vegetable or chicken broth

  • ¼ cups


  • 1 tablespoon


  • ½ teaspoons

    fish sauce

  • 2 teaspoons


  • 1 pound

    chicken or tofu, sliced or cubed
  1. Blanch the broccoli (cook in boiling water for a few minutes). Drain and run under cold water so it stays bright green. Set aside.
  2. Heat the sesame oil and chili oil (if using) in a large pan or wok. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and very lightly browned (don’t burn).
  3. Add the soy sauce, broth, mirin, honey, and fish sauce and stir to combine. Allow to boil and cook down, 7 minutes or so.
  4. Mix a small amount of the sauce with the corn starch to make a slurry, then stir into the sauce.
  5. Add the chicken or tofu and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through. Add in the broccoli and stir to combine. Serve with brown rice.

A native New Yorker, I recently moved to Be’er Sheva, Israel with my husband while he completes medical school. I am a freelance food and travel writer and photographer who is always hungry and reads cookbooks in bed.

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