Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I don't know why, but drunken chicken always reminds me of the imperial banquets of 100 dishes served in the palaces of ancient China. I can imagine the emperor stroking his beard and feasting on boneless, smooth and tender pieces of chicken soaked in the best shaohsing wine while graceful concubines play the er hu...
If you were to ask a Shanghainese to name 10 top Shanghainese dishes, zuiji (drunken chicken) along with xijeto (lions' head, which is large pork meatballs) and sweenyue (fried fish soaked in a sweet sauce) will definitely make the list. Of the three, drunken chicken is the easiest to prepare. You just need very good chicken, shaohsing wine and the patience to wait one day for the chicken to soak in the wine.
The drunken chicken I ate in Shanghai was superb, bursting with the wonderful bouquet of shaohsing wine. Anyone can make good drunken chicken there because a ready-mix which contains concentrated shaohsing wine is easily available. There are many brands of shaohsing wine here but the best is the Pagoda brand, which is still a weak version of what you get in Shanghai.
1x2kg whole corn-fed chicken, or 4 large chicken legs, skin on
2 1/2 t salt
1/4 t white pepper
1 t Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
1 1/2 cups shaohsing wine
6 thin slices fresh ginger
2 stalks spring onions, tied in 2 bundles
about 1 cup good chicken stock (see Step 2)
1. If using whole chicken, cut it into two halves. Rub chicken with 1 t salt, ginger and the green onions (and Sichuan peppercorns if using) and leave it to marinade in the fridge for 1 hour.
2. Steam chicken (with the ginger, spring onions and peppercorns on top and bottom of chicken) at high heat till cooked (about 25 to 30 minutes, test thickest part of thigh with a skewer. If liquid that runs out is reddish, steam another 5 min). Retain the liquid that comes out from the chicken during steaming.
3.Cut the chicken at the joints to get large pieces so that they are easier to fit into a bowl, and slso easier for the wine to soak in. Mix 1 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t white pepper in a small dish and rub this all over the chicken when it's still hot. Skim the oil from the reserved stock and add to the wine in a glass bowl big enough to hold the chicken pieces. Soak the chicken in the wine-stock (chicken will not be fully covered by wine), cover with cling film (make sure film doesn't touch the chicken) and leave in the fridge overnight, or at least 12 hours (24 hours is best). Turn the chicken once so every part gets to soak in wine. The wine-stock will turn into jelly.
4. Chop chicken into small neat pieces (you can remove the bones if like), arrange nicely on a plate, cover and return to the fridge while you let the wine-stock, which is now a jelly, sit in room temperature to melt. Pour this stock over the chicken just before serving. Garnish with coriander leaves. Drunken chicken is always eaten cold. Sit down and feast on a dish fit for an emperor. Or empress. And get someone to play the er hu.
Note: recipe edited on 9/2/08. I've found that other than steaming the chicken, you can also boil it like you do for Hainan Chicken Rice. Just proceed from Step 3 and use canned stock but heat it up first.