I am always on the lookout for new cooking books, leaflets, dictionaries and anything readable about food, local traditional cooking techniques or – the opposite – trendy and new combinations of flavors. Ten years ago, when I moved out of China and met my husband’s family in France for the first time during the week of Hanukah, his younger brother and wife offered me what would soon become my own Bible-for-food, a terrific all-you-need-to-know-about-food-in-China cookbook from the collection Saveurs du Monde.
I have been looking at the above picture for ages. I mean, 10 years is a world. This page in the book has always been very appealing to me, I loved the set-up with this metal and wood board and the crispy look of that chicken skin, yet I never set myself on the challenge mode to try and make it at home. I think it’s because for a long time I have been reluctant to cooking whole chickens, telling myself it was complicated to achieve the right tenderness and all.
How ignorant was I. Nothing is easier than cooking a whole piece of chicken in a cast-iron pot in a flavored broth. It’s not even a challenge! It’s definitely the level of Cooking for Dummies. You just need to put the ingredients in, hit the gas, and baste your meat every now and then while it cooks. Then the beast needs to rest a little and cool off before you dig right in with a sharp knife.
This looks and sounds like a classic, and the way the chicken has been cooked here may be long overrated, but for me it was all new techniques and memories-of-my-life-in-China-like flavors. It reminded me of my Chinese friend Gisele who used to take me to various Cantonese restaurants and have me try new things. Oh, I miss her so much…! If I now look back, I kind of wish I was there again because I have changed, I am more mature about foods and I’d be willing to try more things on the menu of each restaurant with the purpose of studying the dishes for further reproduction at home.
There are different ways of making a whole soy chicken, some of which implies marinating overnight then drying the chicken off before roasting, other methods involve roasting it all in the oven. The recipe from the book says it should be cooked in a large pot full of broth and soy sauce, on the gas stove, after marinating overnight. So I thought I’d share the recipe here, though I had no time for marinade and I too had decided to grill the chicken on all sides before cooking it in the pot. Crispiness, I said. It all came out as expected. I’m sure marinating the chicken overnight adds up to the taste and flavors, so I highly recommend doing so if you’re not in a hurry. But it was already very good the way I cooked it, so just imagine… Serve with white or fried rice, bon appétit et bon voyage!
- 1.2 to 1.5 kg chicken
- vegetable oil
- 50 ml of Shaoxing wine
- 200 ml of clear soy sauce
- 100 ml of dark soy sauce
- chicken stock
- 2 inches of ginger, freshly minced
- Heat vegetable oil in the cast-iron pot.
- Put the chicken in the pot, breast-side down, and start grilling the skin.
- After a few minutes, turn the chicken upside down and grill the other side. Repeat with the lateral sides too.
- The minimum grilling time is between 8 and 10 minutes, so that all sides end golden.
- When the outer part of the chicken is grilled, deglaze the pot with Shaoxing wine.
- Add the ginger on top of the chicken and in the pot
- After 30 seconds to a minute, add the clear and dark soy sauces, and pour the broth in the pot.
- Cover with a lid and let it cook for 40 minutes. Baste the top of the chicken from time to time.
- When the 40 minutes are up, turn off the heat and leave the chicken at rest with the lid on for 10 minutes. After those 10 minutes, take the lid out and let the chicken slowly cool off in its dark broth.
- The Chinese refrigerate the chicken an hour in the fridge before slicing it. Get the chicken out of the pot and place it in an aluminum plate to cool it off completely.
- Cut the chicken, starting with the filets. Slice each filet into pieces without moving the pieces, so that when you’re done you only have to slide your knife below the cuts and lift them all at once and display them on your place next to the rice.
- Dip in soy sauce or a spicy chili garlic sauce.
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2019 All Rights Reserved.