Another steamed chicken with ham recipe, but this is a more advanced recipe to do because you have to steam and then debone the chicken (the chicken must be a premier one, preferably home-reared), then sandwich the ham slices in between and make a sauce from the steamed juices. This is a Cantonese dish that Nan Xing Restaurant on Jalan Pantai, KK used to do very well, and was a popular wedding banquet dish before banquet dishes became cheap and tasteless. In those days it wasn't about the ambience, but totally about food. Other scrumptious wedding banquet dishes Nan Xing used to do were deep-fried crab claws (love them!), 8-jewelled duck, abalone and kale, crispy-skin chicken, a very light and aromatic yang chow fried rice and the best sharks' fins soup...those really were banquet days. When Dad made his $ in the early 70s, we used to dine on delicious braised sharks' fins, not in thin shreds, but whole fins in pieces the size of serving spoons, with blanched bean sprouts, not as a soup but as a dish. And Saturday mornings were always spent using toothpicks to pick baby feathers out of special swift's nests (a few drops of oil will cause the feathers to coalesce to the top), a job we all hated but were rewarded well: bowls of swifts' nests double-boiled with rock-sugar, supposedly to restore the body's ying-yang balance and make your skin as flawless as a newborn's butt. How times change, and now it's environmentally incorrect to eat those things, as well as financially impossible with birds' nest price at over RM4000/US$1250 per kg. Absolutely delicious, makes my saliva glands swell just thinking of it.
Okay, let's forget about the old days. Now for this recipe, Nan Xing used ordinary cooked ham. That was because Chinese ham was rare and expensive, and there's more work because it needs to be steamed. Also, Chinese ham is very salty. For this dish last night, I used Chinese ham because I have a block of very good and fresh Chinese ham from Shanghai. Being fresh instead of aged, the ham is mild and xien/umami-sweet so it both flavored and sweetened the stock. As it ages, Chinese ham will develop a stronger aroma, almost like that of an old parma ham. I guess you can use parma ham too, but cut it a little thicker. If you can't get any Chinese ham, use good cooked ham but the sauce will not be as tasty.
(Note: It was 6:00 pm when I took these photos so there wasn't enough light and color balance turned the dish into a weird color. For this dish I've used mom's oval antique serving plate, exactly like the ones Nan Xing used to serve banquet dishes in.)
Steamed Chicken With Ham II
1 X 2.5 kg home-reared corn-fed whole chicken
18 to 20 thin ham slices, 3 x 5 cm each
1 kg greens like choysum or kale
3 thin slices fresh ginger, crushed lightly
1/2 T thin strips of fresh ginger
a small bunch of spring onions, tied
1/2 t fine sugar
3 T shao xin wine
2 T cornflour
1 t oyster sauce
1. If using Chinese ham, do not cut the ham into thin pieces. Estimate how big a block of 20 slices would be, put the block of ham into a small bowl, mix it well with the sugar, 1 T shao xin wine and ginger strips and leave overnight or at least 1 hour. You can steam it after that, so that you have time to chill it and then it can be cut into neat slices. If using English ham, do not cook.
2. Rub 1 t salt and the 2 T shao xin wine all over the cavity of the chicken. Put the ginger and spring onion into the cavity. Steam chicken at high heat for 25 minutes. Check if chicken is done by piercing the thigh with a thin skewer. If the juice that runs out is pink, give it another 5 minutes. You can, like I did, steam the Chinese ham along with the chicken. Do not pour away the steaming water because you are going to blanch your veg in it. Pour the stock from both the chicken and the ham together into a small pot and skim off the oil. There should be about 2 cups of stock.
3. Put in 1 T oil and 1 t salt into the pot or wok of water you steamed the chicken in. When the water is boiling mad, throw in the veg, stir to make sure all greens are blanched, then remove and let it cool and drain well.
4. When the chicken is cool, cut it into 5 sections: 2 wings, 2 legs and the breast. Now chop the wings at the joints and arrange on a serving plate. Take one leg and cut along it and pare away the meat in one piece. Chop de-boned leg into 3 to 4 cm wide slices, arrange on the plate. Do same with the other leg. Cut along the breastbone and remove one side of the breast meat and chop into pieces about the same size of the leg meat pieces. Do same with the remaining piece of breastmeat. Now tuck the ham in between the chicken pieces neatly. Arrange the veg (lightly squeeze some water out) around the chicken.
5. Put the cornstarch into the retained stock, stir well, and put into a small pot under medium heat. The stock will thicken. If too runny, add more cornflour solution. If too thick, add some canned chicken stock (Swanson's). Add 1 t oyster sauce (not more because you want to taste the flavor and sweetness of the ham and chicken stock) or omit if you are a purist. Taste and season. The sauce shouldn't be too salty. Pour the lightly thickened sauce all over the chicken and veg. That's it, your chicken banquet dish.