Citizens, Zui ji or “Drunken Chicken” is an all-time classic Chinese recipe, typically associated with the Shanghai region or Zhejiang province where the famous Shaoxing rice wine is used with abandon in recipes.
In Chinese cuisine there are actually many different ways of cooking drunken chicken – all are served cold, typically as an appetizer.
One nationally known and very popular version, Shaoxing, originated in the Zhejiang province of eastern China. Shaoxing drunken chicken is cooked and marinated exclusively in Shaoxing rice wine to create a deep taste.
In another version of the dish, the whole chicken is first steamed then chopped up into pieces appropriately sized for picking up by chopsticks.
The steamed meat, along with its juice, is cooked with scallions, ginger and salt. After the chicken is cooked it is marinated in Chinese liquor, sherry or a distilled liquor, like whiskey, overnight in the refrigerator. The chicken is served chilled, often as an appetizer.
Besides the liquor-flavored meat, another feature of the dish is the liquor-flavored gelatin that results from the chilled mixture of the alcohol and the cooking juices.
Typically in most traditional culinary methods for this dish, the chicken should have been fed grains and seeds that are soaked in rice wine. The type of wine varies accordingly to location and preference.
The texture and flavor of the meat would be richer and deeper as opposed to solely cooking it in Chinese liquor. However this is seldom done in recent times as it entails a huge amount of cost for a “marginal” improvement in flavor. That said, TFD has sampled this “pre-seasoned” meat personally and prefers it.
Chinese Superchef Jereme Leung makes the best version of this classic dish that I’ve ever had – updating it by using a rice wine granita and Chinese herbs. I’ve based my recipe closely on his, merely changing a few of the spices to more closely hew to a Sichuanese flavor profile and adding a touch more rose liquor.
I also use chicken breasts in place of chicken thigh, as I find it to be better suited to my palate.
Citizens, this is a delicious and magnificent way to serve this classic recipe – please do give it a try! 🙂
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