Saturday, July 25, 2009

Double Deliciousness

Today's dish is really two - two tastes, two textures and two techniques. One of the wondrous things about Chinese cuisine is their understanding of the role of texture in our enjoyment of food. These two dishes could not be more different in taste and texture, but they both start with the same process. My suggestion is to make the first recipe, then use half of the chicken to make the second recipe and serve them together. They are such a beautiful contrast and eating them as part of the same meal is a real treat for your tastebuds.

The first dish originates from Hainan, an island in the South China Sea and the smallest province of China. If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting the food heaven that is Singapore, you would know this dish well. It is sold in hawker stalls and restaurants everywhere and is unofficially Singapore's national dish. It is usually served with richly flavoured rice and a bowl of fragrant chicken stock, spring onions and chilli. It is meltingly tender, super moist and succulent. If you are inspired to follow the Singaporean tradition, then save the cooking liquid as a basis for the stock to serve with your chicken.

The second dish uses the Hainan chicken as a base, but takes it a step further to transform it from soft,mellow and melting to crispy, zingy and aromatic. Be warned - it is extremely moreish!
One last word on today's recipe - Don't be daunted by the poaching technique if you have never poached a whole chicken before. It really is worth the tender loving care and the end result will give you chicken that is unbelieveably moist and perfectly cooked, I promise.

Hainanese Poached Chicken

You will need: 1 size 15-16 free range chicken, 6 spring onions, 3cm piece ginger, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, boiling water (to cover), ice water (to cool)
To serve: soy, sliced spring onion, and chilli.

Method: Remove and discard any visible fat from the inside of the chicken and dry it well inside and out with a paper towel. Place the chicken breast down, in a large heavy based saucepan or casserole dish that also has a lid.

Slice the spring onion into large pieces (about 8cm long). Remove the skin from the ginger and slice into pieces. Add to the pot, along with 1 teaspoon salt. Cover the chicken with enough boiling water to just cover the chicken and bring it to the boil on medium heat.

Reduce the heat to low, put the lid on the chicken and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 45 minutes, covered. The chicken will continue to cook as it sits in the liquid.

When 45 mins has elapsed, carefully remove the chicken from the poaching liquid (you want to avoid breaking the skin if you can) and plunge the chicken into a bowl of ice water. Leave for 15 mins until the chicken is cold.

After 15 mins, gently remove the chicken and allow it to drain. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place the chicken on a plate and rub all over with sesame oil. Cover loosely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When serving, top with sliced spring onion and chilli.

Crispy Fried Chicken with Aromatic Salt

You will need: 1 poached chicken cut into pieces (see the recipe above), 3/4 cup plain flour, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon five spice powder, 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon finely ground Szechuan pepper, peanut or vegetable oil for frying. Sesame seeds and sliced spring onion to serve.

Method: In a small pan, gently roast the five spice, Szechuan pepper, chilli and salt for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Set aside.

Dust the chicken pieces with the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the oil and fry in batches until crisp and golden.

Arrange the chicken on a platter and sprinkle with the spiced salt, sesame seeds and spring onion to serve.



  1. that looks absolutely delicious! One of Glen's faves ;)

  2. Wauw that really looks delicious!

  3. Wauw,,,gorgeous,,,Thanks for that post!