Here’s a really easy, no-fail recipe for soy sauce chicken, a Chinese-style chicken dish that’s sure to become a favourite in any home. Chicken is simmered and steeped until perfectly tender and succulent, in a broth of light and dark soy sauces, flavoured with Chinese rose wine, caramelised ginger, garlic, spring onions, cinnamon and star anise.
Oh my! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we’re just about 3 months away from Christmas! It’s been a long while since my last post, dear readers, an absence for all good reasons, but how I’ve missed being in touch with you. Let me just say thank you very much for keeping your comments coming – reading about your cooking and baking endeavours, I couldn’t help but feel excited and thrilled to know what you were elbow-deep into, in your kitchens. And to all of you who have just started following, a big HELLO & WELCOME! Hope you’ll bear with my ever-slightly sporadic posts over the next couple of months as I shuttle back and forth between my home here in Singapore and my home away from home, overseas.
Now, let’s get to the essence of this post, shall we, cos I’m excited! I’m a sucker for comfort food, especially the kind that takes little effort or skill to cook, dare I say. Here’s a chicken dish that is surely a favourite in any Chinese home when done well, and let me just say right away, it’s easy to get this right.
Doesn’t that chicken look lip-smacking good? Trust me, you can make yours turn out EXACTLY LIKE THAT, if not BETTER.
And everyone will think you bought it from a restaurant, or at the very least, a hawker stall where some of the very best-tasting soy sauce chickens are prepared.
Soy sauce chicken is much loved in our family because it promises tender, juicy and succulent meat from every part of the chicken, breasts included, which admittedly is not my favourite part of the bird, but is so tender here. When prepared at home, soy sauce chicken tastes so amazingly fresh and sumptuous, whether eaten plain, or when dressed with the flavoured soy sauce in which it was stewed. As a Chinese family, we enjoy soy sauce chicken in the simplest of ways – simply chopped into chunks served with rice and cucumber slices (and of course, always with its stewed soy sauce dressing on the side), much like how we enjoy one of Singapore’s most famous chicken dishes, Hainanese chicken rice. I particularly love soy sauce chicken when topped over sauce-tossed egg noodles, or eaten with congee.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, what about that most wonderful part of the chicken – the skin! Yes, it deserves special mention, and anyone who’s ever had soy sauce chicken knows that this is what seals the dish! The skin absorbs all that wonderful aroma and flavours of the saucy broth bath, and really magnifies the savoury experience . My husband is in that camp of skin-off eaters – I can hardly fault him for trying to cut out the fat – though I can’t seem to help myself. It really is the BEST PART!! How could anyone resist THAT, right?
I’d like to leave you with a couple of recommendations that could make all the difference in flavour and texture when cooking soy sauce chicken:
Choose a fairly medium to large-sized plump chicken, preferably fresh-chilled and not frozen, with skin that isn’t torn. Take out chilled chicken from the refrigerator at least an hour before, so that it has time to come to room temperature. If you prefer a small-sized chicken or a mix of chicken parts (whole chicken legs, thighs or wings), reduce the quantities of sauce ingredients proportionately and adjust the cooking time. A smaller-sized chicken or quantity of chicken parts will cook more quickly.
Choose good quality light and dark soy sauces, and Chinese wine, as these can make all the difference in taste. Good quality soy sauces are typically labelled premium or superior, and have a richer depth of flavour and are typically thicker in consistency. If Chinese rose wine is not available, you can use good quality Shaoxing wine. After cooking, the sauce mixture can be re-used, though you may need to add more soy sauces when you next use it for cooking, to strengthen its flavour. Just strain, store in smaller portions, if desired, and freeze. It can be used to cook soy sauce eggs, to braise tofu, or as a ready-made sauce for your favourite Asian stir-fries.
The best way to check if chicken is cooked through is to use a meat thermometer. Lift the chicken out of the pot, insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone. If the internal temperature is at least 75 deg C (165 deg F), the chicken is done. If not yet done, lower it back into the sauce, and let it steep for longer in the latent heat, and check every 10 to 15 minutes.
Alternatively, you can stab into the thickest part of the thigh and if juices run clear, the chicken is done. Always allow cooked chicken to cool completely. and then rub or brush oil all over the skin. Chopping a cooled chicken will give you neater and cleaner slices, so you can confidently CHOP, CHOP away!
Happy cooking and enjoy! Cheers, Celia
Soy Sauce Chicken
- 1 chicken (1 - 1.2 kg)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
For the Sauce:
- 1 thumb-length old ginger, unpeeled
- 10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 3 stalks spring onion
- 1 cinnamon bark
- 2 star anise, whole
- 2 cups light soy sauce
- 1 1/3 cups dark soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Chinese rose wine (or Shaoxing wine)
- 6 cups boiling hot water, or as needed
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste
- Choose a chicken with skin that is not torn, and allow it to come to room temperature (if chilled). Chop off the feet and parson's nose (tail) if desired. Wash the skin and body cavity thoroughly. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Mix salt and pepper together, and rub the inside and all over the skin. Tuck the feet (if left intact) into the cavity, and twist the wings to secure them on the back. Make a 3-inch loop with twine and tie around the neck. Make sure the loop is strong enough to lift the chicken. Set aside.
- Wash old ginger and cut into slices. Wash garlic cloves and smash lightly. Roughly chop spring onions into 1-inch lengths.
- In a deep stock pot, heat up 2 tbsp oil over medium heat. When hot, fry ginger slices and garlic cloves until fragrant. Add sugar, and continue to fry until sugar melts. Add the chopped spring onions, cinnamon bark, star anise, and fry for a few seconds more.
- Pour in the light and dark soy sauces, Chinese rose wine (or Shaoxing wine) and enough water to submerge the chicken. Turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. At this point, before putting in the chicken, do a taste test. If you would like the sauce a little more salty, add the remaining 1 tsp salt (less or more, to your taste), or if you like it a little sweeter, add more sugar to taste. When boiling, lower chicken in, chest side facing down, into the sauce. Allow the sauce to return to a steady simmer, and lift the chicken out.
- Turn up the heat and when the sauce is boiling again, lower the chicken in for the second time. When the sauce is simmering again, lift the chicken out. Bring the sauce back to a boil, then lower in the chicken for the third time and leave it in the pot.
- When the sauce returns to a steady simmer, turn off the heat. Cover the pot with its lid, and let chicken steep for an hour to an hour 15 minutes, or until just cooked. You can use a meat thermometer to check if chicken is cooked through. Stab it into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) and if the temperature reaches at least 75 deg C (165 deg F), it is cooked.
- Lift out the chicken and hang it to drip dry (have a drip pan ready to collect the juices). Strain the sauce, set aside some for serving, and store the rest for future use. When the chicken has cooled, brush some oil on the skin. Then chop into pieces and serve with some of the sauce in a bowl, or ladle sauce over the chicken.