The Cantonese have always enjoyed their reputation for being the finest roasters of poultry in all of China (the residents of Beijing are of course legendary for their Beijing Duck and would vehemently disagree with the Cantonese being the best, but that’s another recipe…). Another dish I have always been very partial to in the Cantonese repertoire is “Soy Sauce Chicken”, where the traditional recipe calls for boiling the chicken in soy sauce mixed with rock sugar and spices.
I have decided to combine both recipes into one and have based my version closely on that developed by the unmatched master of Chinese cooking on eGullet, W.K. Leung (“Ah Leung”) aka “hzrt8w”. I have modified the marinade heavily and added the Chinese technique of basting the skin of the bird with boiling vinegar to make it ultra-crisp and flavorful.
I’ve also tweaked the condiment called “Chung Yao” or scallion oil to include some chicken bouillon powder, which adds a great savor and is a secret ingredient used in this recipe by many Chinese roasted meat restaurants. It is traditionally served with roasted chicken.
Citizens – this recipe does involve a bit of effort on your part, but you will be rewarded with the finest chicken you will probably ever taste. 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 whole organic chicken, about 4 lb
Vinegar bath for chicken skin:
1 ½ cup of Chinese red vinegar – buy it here or at your local Chinese grocer for a lot less
¼ cup water
4 whole star anise
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of five spice powder
Marinade for chicken:
4 tbsp dark soy sauce with mushroom flavor – please note this is NOT regular soy sauce! Buy it here or at your local Chinese grocer for a lot less
2 tbsp Oyster sauce
1 cube of red fermented bean curd (Nam Yu) from a jar (optional)
½ tsp of salt
1 tbsp mircoplaned orange zest
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tbsp alcohol (Chinese rose liquor is strongly preferred or use Shaoxing wine or dry sherry)
3 dashes white pepper powder
2 tsp dark soy sauce with mushroom flavor
3 tsp orange flower honey
2 tsp water
Chung Yao condiment:
3 stalks green onions (finely chopped)
2 inches ginger (peeled and grated)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 heaping teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
Trim off the extra fat from the chicken.
To make the skin dry and crispy, we need to pour boiling red vinegar onto the chicken skin. Put the vinegar in a small pot and add 1/4 cup of water to dilute it. (During pouring and continuous heating, the vinegar will inevitably become concentrated.) Bring to a boil.
Set a frying pan on top of a second stove. Set stove at high. Use a pair of prongs to hold the chicken (need to rotate the chicken slightly when pouring the vinegar). Pour the boiling red vinegar onto the chicken.
Keep rotating the prongs to make sure the chicken skin is evenly coated with the vinegar. Let the excess vinegar drip onto the frying pan. Collect all the excess red vinegar in the pan. Pour back onto the small pot. Set for a minute or 2 to let the vinegar boil again.
Repeat the same pouring process until the chicken is coated with red vinegar evenly (about 2 to 3 times on each side of the chicken). Set aside and let dry on a rack.
Use a food mallet to break up the star anise into small fragments. Place them in a small bowl. Mix them with 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of five spice powder. Mix this “dry rub” well.
Apply the dry rub ingredients inside the chicken cavity thoroughly. Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and add marinade.
Mix and rub the marinade thoroughly over the chicken. Marinate at room temperature for about 2 hours, 1 hour per side. After an hour, turn the chicken over so the bottom can soak up the marinade liquid.
After 2 hours of marination, use a big “S” hook to hang up the chicken. You can easily make some S-hooks out of coat-hangers. Just cut the wire to size and bend to the right shape.
Set a small fan at “low” to dry the chicken thoroughly. Be sure to place a plate underneath to catch the liquid dripping. Hang the chicken for about an hour or so.
Put 2 stainless steel kebab skewers through the chicken. Use some hooks to hang the chicken underneath a rack in the oven, with the breast facing down.
You can easily make “custom-made” hooks to make this easy! Each hook looks like this:
Go to a hardware store or a wire fence dealer and get some aluminum “ties”. They are about the same or heavier gauge as wire hangers but they are not coated with paint or varnish. Bend them to shape as shown. Set the oven rack at the top slot. Then hang two of these hooks from the oven rack. Then place the skewers on the bottom rail of these hooks. They work beautifully.
Make sure that the chickens are hung in the air and not touching each other. Fill a small baking pan with water and place it underneath the bird to keep the chicken moist during baking (as well as for catching the dripping grease).
Bake the chicken at 325F for 1.5 hour.
Take the chicken out of the oven to apply the basting mixture. Baste the chicken thoroughly with a brush.
Return the chicken to the oven and set the temperature to 425F. Continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes to make a crispy, shiny chicken skin.
Meanwhile, make the Chung Yao condiment:
First chop the green onions and grate the ginger and place them in a bowl. Heat up the cooking oil to smoking temperature. Pour the smoking oil onto the green onion and ginger. Finally add the salt, chicken bouillon and sugar and mix the ingredients well.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Chop up the chicken, Chinese style. Transfer to a serving plate.
Serve either with the green onion/ginger mix condiment, or a small dish of dark soy sauce instead. The chicken skin is crisp, and the meat remains very moist and tender.