Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wined Chicken

Pei Mei's first book is organized by four regions, starting in the "the east" (followed by Southern such as Cantonese, Western, such as Sichuan, and Northern, including Beijing).  Might as well begin at the beginning, so recipe 1, page 7 is wined chicken.

The concept is dead simple.  Steam a half chicken, marinate overnight in rice wine, stock, and fish sauce, and serve cold.  But on reading the recipe, some issues are immediately obvious.  It calls for 2 cups wine, 3 cups stock, 1/2 cup fish sauce and the steaming water in the marinade.  That's obviously way too much liquid for just a 1/2 chicken, and I hate to use the last 3 cups of my homemade stock on something to be thrown away.  Another question is how much steaming water?  Normally it wouldn't matter, but since we're using that water later in the dish, its volume is important in the balance of the dish.  Unfortunately, the original Chinese description is not any more detailed. I ended up letting my equipment decide.  I filled the wok just to the bottom of the steamer, and thats how much water I used.

To start, I selected an already parted chicken to make the halving of it easier.  From that I selected 1 breast, 2 thighs and 1 leg.  As directed, I applied a dry rub of 1 tbs of salt, and let the chicken sit for 2 hours.  Then I steamed the chicken for 20 minutes.  I had never steamed a chicken before; it's just not part of the western repertoire, which is a shame, because it works really well.  The heat is low and moist, so the white meat doesn't dry out, and the steaming liquid turns into a delicate broth.  I will have to add this technique to the toolbox.

For the marinade, mix the four ingredients in bowl, and add chicken:
(indeed one could fit a family of chickens in there)

Twelve hours later, out it comes:

The basil chiffonade was a last second hunch that worked out pretty well.

Tasting:  it was a shade too salty, but the fish sauce balance was just right (fish sauce is pretty strong .  The meat was perfectly cooked.  Must have been pretty good because seconds were asked for by the taster.  I would use less of the steaming liquid in subsequent tries to adjust the salt level.

Now, what to do about all this marinade... I'm thinking soup.   Cut it with water, chop up some baby bok choy and throw in some frozen potstickers, and we have faux-wonton soup.

Flavor was still a bit strong, but a fine leftovers soup nonetheless.


  1. The marinade has to be boiled before it is edible, yes? Just don't get sick! Otherwise, YAY for new techniques.

  2. Perhaps one is to rinse the chicken after salting? One does this when salting cucumbers or eggplant...