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! 🙂
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 10 scallions, cut into 3“–4” pieces
- 1 2″ piece ginger, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 4 dried bay leaves
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 8 chiles de arbol, stemmed
- 5 tbsp. plus 1 cup shaoxing rice wine – 紹興酒
- 4 boneless skin-on organic chicken breasts (about 1 ½ lbs.)
- 3 tsp. Mei Kuei Lu Chiew – 玫瑰露酒, méiguīlujiǔ, lit. “rose essence liquor”: a variety of Chinese liquor distilled with a special species of rose and crystal sugar. Alcohol content by volume: 54–55%
- To Garnish: a handful of goji berries, fresh chives
- Heat a large flat-bottomed wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, half the scallions, and half the ginger; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add 4 cups water; bring to a boil. Add salt, sugar, bay leaves, star anise, and cinnamon; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer for 3 minutes. Strain scallion–ginger liquid through a fine sieve into a bowl (discard solids); let cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, wipe wok clean; add 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Add remaining scallions and ginger, 5 tbsp. of the rice wine, and chicken; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until chicken is just cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Drain chicken mixture in colander, cover with ice cubes and let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a wide dish; set aside.
- Stir remaining 1 cup rice wine and liquor into reserved scallion–ginger liquid. Stir together ½ cup wine mixture with ¾ cup water in a bowl. Pour into an ice cube tray; freeze. Pour remaining wine mixture over chicken; cover and let chill for 24 hours.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add wolfberries and chiles; cook for 1 minute. Drain. Cut chicken into 1 ½” × 2″ pieces; divide along with chiles between 8 martini glasses. Pulse rice wine ice cubes in a food processor for 10–15 seconds until slushy, to make a granita. Spoon about 2 tbsp. of granita into each glass; garnish with goji berries and chives.
- Calories: 450.84 kcal
- Sugar: 9.07 g
- Sodium: 931.64 mg
- Fat: 17.02 g
- Saturated Fat: 3.96 g
- Trans Fat: 0.17 g
- Carbohydrates: 22.63 g
- Fiber: 3.62 g
- Protein: 31.85 g
- Cholesterol: 87.09 mg
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