I am incredibly lucky to be born into a family of phenomenal cooks.  Everyone in our family is passionate not only about eating good food, but also about the techniques and processes that make dishes spectacular.  

One of my favourite chicken dishes is my grandma’s soy braised chicken. At 4ft tall and weighing only 90 pounds, my 80-years-old grandma is still a formidable force in the kitchen.  She made this dish recently during my trip back to Beijing for CNY, and I played spy in order to recreate the magic in my own kitchen.

Now, cooking an entire chicken might seem a daunting task for many of us (myself included).  Well, this recipes changes all my presumptions about cooking whole chickens.  It’s incredibly simple, with guaranteed results.

What you’ll need (serves 2-4):

  • 1 whole, medium-sized chicken (preferably free range)
  • 2 hearty stalks of green scallion
  • 6 slices of ginger
  • 1-2 star anise
  • a pinch of Sichuan pepper
  • 3 pods of crushed cardamom
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 cup light soy sauce
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbls oil
  • 1 tbls salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cooking liquor

You can either make this on the stovetop or in an oven. I personally prefer the oven to slowly break down the chicken. 

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Lower the chicken into the pot and let it sit for 2 minutes.  Be sure to turn the chicken so the scalding water touches the entire chicken.  This process strips the chicken of any unwanted odours, and also helps to extract excess fat.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.  The idea here is to scald the chicken, not boil it completely. Discard the water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat up your aromatics with a bit of oil. The classic foundation flavours of Chinese cookery consists of ginger, scallion, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorn. I’ve also added a few pods of crushed cardamom for an extra whiff of perfume. 

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Once the aromatics have started to sizzle and release their addictive fragrance, deglaze with the cooking wine. Plop the chicken into the pot and pour in the soy sauces, sugar, and salt.  Pour in hot water so that the chicken is just about submerged.  Depending on the size of your pot, you might add more sauce / water. Bring to a boil.

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For stovetop: simmer with the lid partly clamped on for about 40-50 minutes on medium heat.  A good way to test if the chicken is cooked is to use a chopstick and stick it through the thigh.  If the liquid that oozes out is clear, then the chicken is done.

For oven: clamp the lid on and transfer to the pre-heated 200 degrees oven onto the middle rack. Cook until super tender (around 1.5 hours).

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Remove the chicken from the pot onto a serving platter. Discard most of the braising liquid and heat up the rest until caramelized. Drizzle over the cooked bird for that beautiful, sticky sheen and prepare to be dazzled!

Bon Appetit!

Recipe from girlmeetscooking.com 

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Editor-at-Large, Jetsetter Food Nomad

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