An easy, savoury home-cooked meal of braised chicken in oyster sauce is all you need to have a taste of Chinese comfort food. The best parts of chicken to use are the wings and legs, as the texture is smoother and extremely tender when braised. This dish is saucy, aromatic and fragrant, and best eaten with plain steamed rice.
One dish that I particularly love and enjoy is this quintessentially Chinese dish of braised chicken in oyster sauce. It makes a simple and hearty meal, and is super delicious eaten with plain, steamed rice.
I don’t know about you, but have you found that you can cook almost anything with oyster sauce? Throw it into any meat, vegetable, rice or noodle stir-fry, and you’ll hardly ever be disappointed! Oyster sauces are indeliby associated with sauces and gravies for meats and stir fries. It is really quite indispensable in Asian cooking, and particularly in Chinese cuisine.
What is oyster sauce?
Oyster sauce is this dark brown, viscous, deep and intensely flavourful condiment made from sugar, salt, water, and the caramelised juices of slow-simmered oysters, or oyster extracts. It is thickened with starch to yield its thick consistency. It is really quite indispensable in Asian cooking, and particularly in Chinese cuisine.
Every Chinese kitchen will likely have oyster sauce perpetually stocked, alongside light and dark soy sauces. I like to think of these as my essential trio of Asian sauces.
Braised chicken in oyster sauce is a classic example of Chinese soul food. It is more often savoured as a home-cooked dish. It hardly makes its way onto a Chinese restaurant menu these days, as restaurants increasingly put out their most popular and chef-styled signature dishes.
I typically cook a lot of braised chicken dishes, if you happen to notice. And I know my readers really love braised dishes too. One of my most popular recipe posts is this braised chicken with potatoes. In fact, I was reminded of this oyster sauce version when my fellow food blogger friend, Yvonne of Souper Diaries recently wrote a great recipe post on braised chicken with mushrooms.
Why braising is popular in Chinese cooking
Braising is a style or way of cooking that favours slow and gentle heating over low, controlled heat in a braising liquid or sauce bath. Typically, braising is a longer cooking process, sometimes taking several hours. The end goal of braising is always tender textured food.
In Chinese cooking, braising meat, seafood and tougher or more fibrous vegetables involve gentle simmering, not unlike slow cooking, in a flavourful mix of sauces, spices and liquids like stock or water. Meats are usually seasoned lightly and given time to absorb the seasonings before braising. Sometimes, a quick deep-fry in oil or stir-fry is essential to seal in the flavour and juices, before braising.
Commonly used ingredients in Chinese braising
The sauce mix is essential towards the end flavour of a braised dish. Sauces are commonly a mixture of many possible combinations of the following:
- light soy sauce
- dark soy sauce
- oyster sauce
- sesame oil or peanut oil
- Chinese wine
- bean pastes like soy bean, black bean, or fermented red bean
- Western sauces like Worcestershire sauce, A1 or HP sauce
- other seasonings like salt and sugar.
In Chinese and Asian cuisine in general, we also love to use aromatic ingredients to add layer upon layer of flavours to our food. Commonly used are ginger, garlic, galangal (blue ginger), spring onion, and spices such as cinnamon bark, cloves, star anise, ground spices and peppercorns.
The heady aroma and fragrance of a braised dish is unmistakable, and promises tender textured, juicy meat. Hardly any fancy garnishing is required, as there’s so much flavour to be had in the sauce. Chinese-style garnishing is simple, under-stated and takes nothing away from the main dish presented, usually just a sprinkling of chopped spring onions, coriander leaves or parsley will suffice.
About braised chicken in oyster sauce
This braised chicken in oyster sauce is a versatile and forgiving dish, which is why it’s really a favourite with home cooks.
You can expand the flavour of this dish by braising the chicken with dried Chinese mushrooms, potatoes, or chestnuts. I really like this recipe variation which uses dried scallops, as they enhance the sweetness of the sauce. If using dried scallops, try to use your best variety for this dish.
You can use different cuts of chicken, though the favoured cuts are the wings and legs. These parts are favoured in Chinese braising because of the smooth texture of the meat, and for the skin (as unhealthy as it may be!) which soaks up all the umami flavour of the sauce.
Here are more braised dishes you might like:
- Chicken in Spicy Tomato Sauce
- Braised Pork Belly and Eggs in Soya Sauce
- Kapitan Soy Sauce Chicken
- Babi Pongteh (Pork Stewed with Soy Bean Paste)
- Assam Pork Curry
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
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Braised Chicken in Oyster Sauce
- 3 chicken legs
- 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 thumb-length ginger knob
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 stalks spring onion
- 3 dried scallops
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tbsp Chinese wine
For the Sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp chicken seasoning powder
- 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp thick dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 - 2 tsp corn flour mixed in 1 tbsp water
- Chop each chicken leg into 3 or 4 chunks. Season with light soy sauce and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel and slice ginger knob and garlic cloves. Cut the white part of spring onions into 1-inch lengths. Finely chop the green part for garnishing. Soak the dried scallops in warm water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, but reserve the soaking water. Shred the scallops finely.
- Combine the sauce ingredients.
- Heat up a wok over high heat with sesame oil until hot. Stir fry the ginger, garlic and spring onion (white sections) until fragrant. Add shredded scallops, and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Put in the chicken chunks and toss until they change colour. Drizzle in the Chinese wine and stir fry briskly until well combined.
- Transfer to an earthen or clay pot (optional). Pour in the combined sauce ingredients and the reserved soaking water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the wok or pot with it's lid, reduce to low heat, and let braise until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes or longer, depending on your desired tenderness.
- When almost done, taste the sauce. If a more intense flavour is desired, leave the pot uncovered and allow sauce to reduce. As the water evaporates, the saltiness or sweetness of the sauce will also be intensified, so adjust to your taste by adding more salt or more sugar. Thicken the sauce with cornflour mixture to your desired consistency.
- Garnish liberally with chopped spring onions and serve immediately.