Shanghai people love eating chicken, this is no daunt. If you don’t believe me, next time you visit Shanghai, count the number of KFC and McDonald’s in high street. To common knowledge, those two old enemies always go head to head like hermit crab and gastropod shell. But here in Shanghai, there is a very different story: KFC is such an obvious winner. How can those stupid hamburgers beat our loved tasty chicken? No way!
On the other side, when KFC firstly appears in Shanghai streets in 1990s, people were questioning themselves:”Why the American fried chicken can be so popular all over the world? Our boiled succulent chicken is as same simple and delicious, but much healthier! We can copy their franchise management method and spread our restaurants around the world too!” So shortly loads of Shanghai chicken restaurants opened, in one time we did believe they would achieve a great success like KFC. But unfortunately one bird flu killed most of them. This was not because the restaurants delivered any poison food, but the panic of company management over a big supply chain. For winning the public confidence, Chinese enterprise still has a long way to go.
But it does’t matter for us enjoying this dish at home. The Shanghai succulent chicken, or known as plain boiled chicken, is so simple and delicious. Every family loves it in the wide Shanghai region. It can be eaten either warm or cold, four season’s favourite dish, really.
Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
Corn fed chicken: 1 (small or medium, appox 1000g)
Spring onion: 3
Ginger: 10g (with skin on)
Light soy sauce: 30ml
Sugar: 1-1.5 teaspoon
Salt: 0.5 teaspoon
Choose the right type of chicken is very important to this dish. I find the corn fed free range chicken brings the best flavour and colour. You can also use normal free range or organic chicken, but the colour won’t be as appetising.
1) Clean the chicken, cut off the tips of wings, the bottom and extra fact around the neck.
2) Put the chicken in a big pot and fill with cold water. Put the pot on high heat and bring it to boil. Pour off the water and wash off any impurity both on the chicken and in the pot. Tip: Wash with cold water will tighten the skin and give a professional look of the finished dish.
This step is called “Feishui” (wash off with hot water) and is wildly used in Chinese cooking when treating meat and poultry. Chinese find using this way washing off the dirts (basically blood and tissue fluid released from the meat) will give a fresh clean taste to the dish.
3) Put the kettle on and boil about 2 litters of water. Refill the boiling water into the pot and put the chicken back in. Can you see the difference between picture 2 and 3? That’s what “Feishui” has done. I also added some spring onions to enhance the flavour. Lid on and boil it at high heat for 20-25 minutes (you may leave a gap to prevent water bubbling over).
4) Turn off the heat, leave the chicken in with the lid on for other 15 minutes. This keeps it cooking gently but not overcooked, and that’s why the chicken will be so succulent. Drain the stock and leave the chicken on the side to cool.
5) Meanwhile, you can make the dipping sauce. Find yourself a pretty little bowl, add in 1 to 1.5 teaspoon of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt, 30ml (2 table spoon) of light soy sauce. Finely chop the spring onion and ginger.
6) Heat a pan and drizzle some cooking oil in (about 10-15ml), in go with the chopped spring onion and ginger. Stir fry them for about 1 minute or 2 until your nose is hit by the pleasant smell. Heat off immediately as the spring onion is very easy to get burned.
This is another very common part in Chinese cooking known as making “spring onion flavoured oil”.
7) Put the fried spring onion and ginger mixture in the bowl (the one with soy sauce, sugar and salt) together with the oil. Pour the chicken stock in to the bowl and stir it well till all the sugar and salt melt in the sauce. Don’t bin the leftover stock, it makes a nice rosette!
Normally Chinese serve the chicken along with the dipping sauce, you can also pour the sauce over the chicken if consume at once.
Which way do you prefer to prepare the chicken?
A. Chinese way: get a big heavy scary chopping knife and ban the chicken into pieces together with the bones. You will get all the most sweat and succulent meat linking with the bones.
B. English way: get a long thin elegant carving knife and carve off the meat carefully by avoiding any bones. This is a bit waste but will give you a safe meal without any bone choking accidents.
C. My way: unfortunately I can’t use the Chinese chopping knife properly. So I use a carving knife as well as my clever fingers to peel off all the meat including those stuck on the bones. This is VERY messy but you will get all the nice bits from the chicken, also my lucky dog will have a handful of trims as always!