Chinese food

Beijing culinary centennial icons “Laozihao”

Beijing culinary centennial icons are revered “Laozihao” (老字号) establishments. Known as gastronomic exceptional restaurants showcasing almost every region of Chinese cuisine in the capital city. The title translates as ‘old brand’names¹. Each in its own uniqueness representing a high level of culinary art by remaining true to its origin.

Stumbled upon an older article mentioning the city’s eponymous duck and the city’s oldest surviving restaurant. “Bianyifang Kaoyadian” established in 1416, the premise originally began as a takeaway. The first characters of the Chinese name ‘Bianyifang’ roughly translates as “convenient to everyone” roast duck shop.

As the name of the shop indicates it features a special bird, the duck, with an illustrious history. The roast duck dates back with an acknowledgement as early as the Yuan dynasty (1202-1368). Here it became listed among the Imperial dishes in ‘The Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages’³. For connoisseurs and curious foodies who like to read more about the history of roast duck click on the link. A different poultry topic here for the goose link. Source: A Taste of Old Peking: The Capital’s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants | the Beijinger 

A Taste of Old Peking The Capital s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants the Beijinger

Source credit: thebeijinger.com | blog author Ed Lanfranco

The Flavour of the Capital

After reading the article, my own memories unfurled of an earliest family home trip in 1981. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I visited a few of these iconic Beijing culinary centennials establishments. One of them is the now well over 200 years old Yueshengzhai Restaurant. The most famous and oldest Muslim establishment in the capital city. Doors opened in 1775, by a former servant at the Qing Imperial court named Ma Qingrui. Six generations have continued and followed the traditions after its founder.

“In 2007  Yueshengzhai’s received recognition for processing techniques for braised mutton with soy sauce. Most noteworthy citing the high standards of guarding the quality of meals. An integral part of Beijing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Source: btmbeijing.com.

For more in-depth information featuring “The flavour of the capital” (Jingwei’r) click here on the China Heritage Newsletter link. The link includes an appendix with halal related snacks and dishes in Beijing. The food keeps drawing local devotees and visitors to the same place. With each visit renewing one’s palate is a feast of confirmation and merit reminiscent to old Peking.

One of the featured dishes is “Baodu” made from intestines and what I ate at my second visit to Beijing. The thin slices were meltingly tender and aromatic. Tripe if not cooked and seasoned correctly is unpalatable and rubbery. What surprised me was the hot-vinegary tart sauce and use of cumin. A spice which is not common in the south-eastern cuisine (my family originates from Zhejiang province). Cumin founds its way by caravan trade into China north-western regions Xinjiang, Mongolia and Hunan cuisine.

“BAODU 爆肚 (lamb tripe in sauce) 
This seared and thinly sliced delicate tripe is made from the washed stomach lining of the sheep. Prepared with a special sesame based sauce with flavour ingredients including cumin, pepper, chilli, vinegar. The dish is often accompanied with shaobing, a baked unleavened layered flat bread. Baodu originates from China’s north-west, it has come to find its home into the capital.”

1,000-year-old Copper Firepots

Among culinary centennial discovery was seeing and enjoying the copper chimney firepot “Huo Guo”. This cooking pot dates over 1,000 years with the origin being from Mongolia. Fuelled by charcoal heating the broth to a slow simmer with the smoke escaping through the chimney. China Northern cuisine is represented by the mutton hotpot by using sheep (lamb) bone stock as broth. Most of the copper chimneys have disappeared, replaced by digital electrical cooking pots.

The cooking pots with steaming hot broth have a variety of choices of basic Chinese meat, fish or seafood stock. Varying seasoning of MaLa (lip numbing hot!) or herbal infused and more. Will mention my favourite book choices in a separate post with recipes to prepare your own tasty & healthy hotpot dinner(s). Other cultural influences by neighbouring cuisines as Thai, Korean based stocks appear on the menu. A new cooking vessel is known as the YinYang or Double duck to serve a spicy and non-spicy version. This new design serves double broths, is a big hit as a home cooking utensil and restaurants serve ware.

qianmenhuoguo

Source courtesy and photo credit: www.chinaheritagequarterly.org

For our international readers the above serve ware can be ordered online, but for Dutch readers and foodies, both items are on sale at Chinese Supermarkets e.g. Dun Yong Amsterdam, Wah Nam Hong The Hague and Amazing Oriental in Rotterdam.

This post contains affiliate links by purchasing through these links Asianfoodtrail earns a small commission to support and maintain the website. However, you pay the same price for the item (it does not increase). Please note promoted links to products are purchased, used, tried and tested unless stated otherwise. For more information, read my disclaimer.

References:
  1. “Time honoured shops” is the official translation of 老字号. A government distinction awarded to certain brand names and shops that have proven histories. Source: Book Unequal Englishes: The Politics of Englishes Today by R. Tupas
  2. China’s time-honored brands struggle to survive | www.english.cctv.com
  3. The History of Chinese Imperial Food | Kaleidoscope-food culture www.cultural-china.com -internet warning unsafe link malware
  4. Beijing Halal | www.chinaheritagequarterly.org
  5. A Taste of Old Peking: The Capital’s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants | www.thebeijinger.com
  6. Mutton like no other | www.btmbeijing.com

Chinese braised oxtail in Instant Pot

Chinese braised oxtail dish, prepared in the Instant Pot a fantastic new tool in my kitchen. This appliance really has cut down the cooking time impressively compared to a Dutch oven on the stovetop and/or oven technique. Only slow-braising in the slow cooker could be an equal in flavour but definitely not a time-saver. The actual Instant Pot meat/stew program was ready in thirty minutes! More information on the Instant Pot and Instant Pot FAQ links.

In all fairness, the total cooking time all together was around one and half hours;

  1. Sauteing oxtail bones 10-15 minutes
  2. Meat/Stew program 30 minutes
  3. Push the cancel button (if not the pressure will not lower directly, it will also extend the waiting time)
  4. NPR – natural pressure release 30 minutes and final
  5. QPR – quick pressure release 5-10 minutes (keep a towel at hand to cover, just in case the steam bursts with a fountain of depressurized liquid)
  6. Finished oxtail bones only – 1½ hours.
  7. Optional: added vegetables and used the manual slow cook program with adjusted time.
  8. Or use the Warm keep function additionally, set the time preference.

Stovetop and slow cooker actual time would definitely between 4-6 hours or more depending on the cut size and weight including the preparation time before until the end of cooking time. If I had doubled or tripled the quantity in the Instant Pot, the cooking meat/stew program still be consistent ready in 30 minutes.

 

Shared my Instant Pot awe-struck moment of braised oxtail with meat falling off the bone while retaining the shape of vegetables. The Instant Pot microprocessor controlled programs work like magic. I posted a photo of my finished Chinese style braised oxtail bones on FB Instant Pot® Community group and received responses on how to make with a full recipe to share. Here’s a quick image overview.

Chinese style braised oxtail bones – recipe

1. Pushed the Sauté button, added vegetable oil as soon as it heated up I added all the oxtail bones into the pot for 5-7 minutes. When it’s browned well the meat releases easily from the bottom.

Instant Pot Sauté preset

Instant Pot Sauté function on with oxtail bones

2. Stir meat around browning all sides, While turning everything around add the spices; cinnamon and star anise. As soon as they release aroma, add the ginger first than garlic. Keep stirring the pot to mix and pan-fry at the same time. With all the brown bits sticking pour in the Chinese wine and scrape the bottom loose. Followed by all other ingredients and close the lid. Cancel the sauté program and push the Meat/Stew button to start braising the oxtail bones.

Instant Pot Sauté preset

Instant Pot Sauté preset

3. After 30 minutes the beep sounded waited for the pressure to come down, the released pressured air carried a hint of the wonderful aroma. When I opened the lid this is what I saw, tender, moist oxtail meat, and vegetables in a flavoursome gravy with an intense fragrance floating upwards from the pan. Pleased as punch with my dish and my new kitchen gadget.

Instant Pot Meat/Stew program

Instant Pot Meat/Stew program

4. Transferred my braised oxtail dish into a normal pan, time to dish up the plates. Life is good.

Chinese braised oxtail bones

Chinese style braised Oxtail bones

Serve in a bowl with rice or noodles on the side or as a topping making it a one-dish meal. Not shown in the image (too fast gobbling it up), for a beautiful presentation you may choose to garnish it with sprigs of coriander, thinly sliced onion rings, diagonally slices of chilli pepper or a mix of altogether scattered on top.

Click here for the Chinese style braised Oxtail bones recipe.

Please read my disclaimer and disclosure on affiliated links and copyright notice for links and information in this post.

Chinese style braised oxtail bones – recipe

Chinese style braised oxtail bones are served as a topping on rice or served separately in a wide bowl. Vegetables as carrots and cassava are added making this dish a hearty and flavoursome nutritious dish. Paleo fans will enjoy its warming earthiness as much without any gluten ingredients. Interchanging between a variety of bean sauces (Chinese fermented soybean sauces), chilli paste and spices will allow you to play with an aroma to your own liking. Or be adventurous and choose to cook from other south-east Asian cuisines enjoying the different flavour, texture with salivating fragrances.

Serve in a bowl by itself with rice or noodles on the side, or topped above as a one-dish meal for lunch or dinner. As a main dish, if preparing a menu for more persons, I would suggest adding a vegetable- and doufu dish with a light soup to complement each other. The Chinese style braised oxtail bones will be the focus for your guests at the table. For the recipe scroll here below, click here for Chinese braised oxtail in Instant Pot information and photo images.

Difference between braise, stews and soup – Update 21 December 2015

I received engaging comments with the questions, how much liquid to add. Followed by the difference between braising and stews. In answer to my readers,  I am updating the post with the replied information on the method of cooking techniques used for tougher cuts of meat.

To start with the liquid in any recipe, it focuses on the right volume to add, water, stock or broth. Next, the cut size of the meat (small cubes) and cutting against the grain means cutting crosswise through the long muscle fibres in the meat. Breaking them up makes meat more tender.

Often used cuts are the less tender and gelatinous parts of meat for slow cooking as well as the use of accompanying vegetables in the dish. In order to fuse all the ingredients together to melt into a tender and flavoursome dish, is by breaking down the connective tissue as tendons (collagen) just simmering it slowly using the right low temperature.

Braising and stewing cooking technique are combination cooking methods using the hob and/or oven.

  • Braising is cooking meat on a bed of vegetables in a small amount of liquid, utilising steam and stewing in its cooking process. At the end of the cooking process, the meat often falls off the bone and the concentrated gravy is clinging to the pieces of meat.
  • Stewing is a slow cook method, where the food is cut into smaller pieces and covered in liquid using gentle heat for a long time. Here the meat is fork tender and the liquid is reduced covering the meat pieces in an aromatic thick sauce.

Cooking with high pressure is perfect it doesn’t require a whole lot of liquid, making it perfect for braised dishes in my Instant Pot DUO 7-1 I use or Lux 6-1 (version without yoghurt option). In comparison with my stove high-pressure cooker, where you have to manually set the timer and keep an eye on it still. The IP has automated meat/stew 30 minutes program you just press and walk away, at the end of time cancel the keep warm function so the natural pressure release can come down a bit faster (approx. 30-45 min.).

For a braised result, I submerge the meat by adding water or stock just barely covering it exposing some of the bones and meat. If you would opt for only (e.g. 50%) using half of water or stock to add, be aware that the gravy will reduce significantly as well. Tip: Keep in mind if this dish is completely cooled the gravy of the bones will be very gelatinous (jiggly as jelly). Meat jelly is another Chinese delicacy served eating it cold as homecooked food and can be creatively used in appetisers or bun fillings for example.

If I like to make a stew instead, I will submerge the ingredients covering it to ½-1 inch (1 ½ – 3 cm) above with liquid or more if it calls for a soupy consistency.

 

Drink suggestions:

  • Tea leaves: Green tea or Jasmine tea is very common, but Pu Erh tea has an earthy smokiness which is very pleasant with an added bonus it really cuts the fat down in your body.
  • For the beer fans: You will enjoy this dish with a light beer, a darker beer, even more, tasteful. In The Netherlands seasonal draft beer or bottled bock beer would be nice to pair along, it has richer, sweeter lager with warm toasty undertones and minimal bitterness. More information on Beleef bockbier 2015, with an overview of 125 different bock beers in The Netherlands. Besides Guinness Stout beer or a Kilkenny, share yours.
  • As for wine lovers: A red Bordeaux is an easy choice, but for the adventurous wine sleuth, an Australian Shiraz-Viognier Barossa 2006 is a discovery I can recommend. My all time favourite would be the Chilean Tarapacca Carmenere, rich in berry fruits and spices to pair with my bowl of Chinese style braised oxtail bones. You will not believe it, but I made my acquaintance and fell in love with Tarapacca in Taipei. Of course, there are far more than one grape or bottle, the more reason to cook and pair more meals.

If you have made the braised Oxtail bones, share your dinner send me a photo.

Enjoy!

 

Please read my disclaimer and disclosure on affiliated links and copyright notice for links and information in this post

 

Hainan Chicken tutorial step-by-step

For making Hainan Chicken Rice recipe click on the link. Buy fresh pandan leaves at Chinese supermarkets or frozen packages, if none available you can substitute with spring onion or young leeks. To handle the leaves for stuffing and cooking, tie 3-4 leaves into a knot as shown in the image here below.

Hainan Chicken Tutorial step-by-step photo overview

Fresh pandan leaves, great fragrance and vibrant colour

For us a distinct Hainan Chicken Rice flavour is steeping the stock with Pandan leaves, it enhances unique fragrance. My home recipe for Singaporean style how to teach my kids to cook this dish. Like any great dish, every Singaporean cook has its very own recipe. Suggestions for Chinese stock methods and variations or Hainan Chicken Rice – food chat trivia, click on the links. Luckily we all share one big secret ingredient.

“Love” to eat, create and share.

Preparing chickens; stuffing set

Preparing chickens; have everything set up and ready.

Don’t forget to remove the chicken fat at the rear side of the chicken

chicken fat

Remove chicken fat and set aside for use in stock or making chilli paste.

Salt and rub all over the chicken, scrub as you can see it exfoliates and smooth the skin

Rub chicken skin clean

After a good rub, the skin will look glossy and clean

Season the chicken in and outside with pepper and salt

Season the chickens

Season the chickens

Stuff cavity with whole garlic cloves, ginger slices followed by the pandan knots. This will prevent the stuffing from falling out and locks everything in for great aroma development.

Stuff chicken with herbs in cavity

Stuff chicken with herbs in cavity

Tie up the chicken legs, so it is easier to lift and lower the chickens into the stock.

tie up the chicken

Tie up the chicken with the packaged food elastic or butcher’s twine.

Chicken prepared, marinating time will do its work blending the flavours.

Marinate chicken 6-8 hours or overnight

Transfer the chicken to a container and marinate the chicken in the fridge for 6-8 hours or overnight.

Prepare the aromatics for stock and rice

Fry the chicken fat add ginger, garlic, Chinese wine, light soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil. Fill the pan with 4 litres of water.

Recipe Hainan Chicken Rice; poaching stock

Preparing Chicken broth

Bring to a rolling boil first, lower the chickens submerged in the liquid and turn the heat down to a simmer. With only a soft bubble on the surface, this manner is poaching the chickens.

Recipe Hainan Chicken Rice - whole chickens in stock

Whole chickens submerged in stock

Let the chicken poach in the stock for approximately 35-40 minutes, taste and add seasoning if needed. Put a lid on and turn off the heat. Let the chickens cool down in the poaching liquid

Hainan Chicken rice - plump rice kernels full of flavor

Hainan Chicken Rice – plump rice kernels full of flavour

Method 1: Wash 6 cups of rice and cook in cooled poaching stock for a fragrant rice with a light aroma.

Method 2: Fry chicken fat in 2 tablespoons of oil together with the smashed garlic and ginger till its golden brown and fragrant. Add the rice, keep stirring coating all the rice kernels with a thin layer of chicken fat oil. Add the rice wine while it sizzles keeps mixing, as soon as you smell fragrance lifting up this signals to add the poaching liquid to cook the rice. At the end when you fluff up the rice remove the aromatics.

Method 3: Make a rice paste first, by pounding the chicken fat, ginger and garlic together with seasonings. Then fry the paste into 3-4 tablespoons of oil for 3-4 minutes releasing an aroma. Add the rice and mix to coat the rice. Pour the stock with pandan leaves to cook till the rice is ready.

Of all three methods, the rice paste will be fully absorbed producing an intensified flavour to the chicken rice.

Hainan Chicken Rice almost ready

Lift the chicken up from the pan with the opening down to pour the cavity empty.

If you leave the skin on rub the chicken with ½-1 tablespoon sesame oil for extra aroma and a nice gloss. Fluff the rice pan and remove all the aromatics from the rice.

How to cut and dress the plate

Cut the chicken in serving portions

How to cut the chicken into serving portions

Cut off the chicken legs and remove the stuffing.

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This way the cavity opened up more to take out the stuffing. Now remove off the chicken wings, cut away the backbone. And remove the chicken carcass by pulling it off the chicken meat.

Cut and remove the breasts

Cut and remove the breasts

Turn the breast, remove all the bones and cartilage, with the breasts up cut through the middle and slice it up in pieces.

Slice the breasts in portions

Cut each breast horizontally lengthwise, making it thinner and easier to cut equal portions,

Chop the legs with a cleaver through the bone or debone first. Remove and discard wing tip, chop in equal pieces.

Dress the plate

Dress the plate

With all the cutting done, scoop the rice onto the plate add the garnish.

If at a restaurant or shop, sometimes you will be asked which meat cut

Place a combination of sliced chicken breast or chopped chicken wing or juicy leg onto the plate

Add condiments

Add condiments; dark soy sauce, chilli hot-sour sauce (and minced ginger sauce).

Enjoy labour of love

Hainan Chicken Rice Plate – Let’s jiak! – Time to makan-lah :-).

As street food meal, a big bottle of ice-cold beer makes a great combination. In refined dining setting pairing with wine, I would opt for a Viognier. Why? It is a dry, medium-bodied with loads of fruit flavours. While enjoying have a look here at Singapore as your next stop.

What would you like to pair with this dish? Leave a comment of even better sent me a photo how you enjoy your meal. Cheers!!

  1. Chinese stock methods and variations
  2. Hainan Chicken Rice – food chat trivia

Hainan Chicken Rice – foodie chat trivia

Last weekend I went out to shop for pork belly, but the butcher shop closed earlier than I had expected. Ended up at the local Moroccan halal butcher, buying entirely different ingredients. Came home with two fresh Halal broilers to prepare Hainan Chicken Rice 海南鸡反 for dinner. A family favourite dish with loads of stories attached, where to go to sample and taste, and company who joined. Asians habitually talk about food, so everyone chimes in to share at the table with fellow travellers and foodies.

Once upon a time… of course it’s not a fairy tale, but this dish has a long history. An old saying “Whoever wants to go to China must cross the Seven Seas” opening up food chat trivia with many questions and even more answers. This Chinese dish must have accompanied Admiral Zheng He with his treasure fleet on his expeditionary voyages. Throughout south-, south-east Asia all the way till the east coast of Africa from 1405 till 1433. Diaspora of Chinese communities emerged far from home with immigrants bringing with them their skills and reminders of home in preparing comfort food.

Let’s jump forward in time, across the Pacific Ocean at the beginning of the 19th century first immigrants arrived known in American history as Chinese railroad workers. Sailing the opposite direction over the Atlantic Ocean, the first Chinese seamen arrived in The Netherlands in 1911. This time frame and distance show a glimpse of a long history; it explains how widespread early Chinese peasant cooking has caught on all continents and the adaptability of Chinese dishes to local taste.

Hainan Chicken Rice

This famous dish named after a Chinese sub-tropical island 海南岛 in the South China Sea, where a local dish prepared with the main ingredient “Wencheng Chicken” originates. Long after the first immigrants, the present dish is still named as Hainan Chicken Rice. Recognised for its simplicity, aromatic rice and the tender poached chicken it remains a favourite dish trending on top of many food lists with fans in- and outside south-east Asia. Singapore proudly lists as one of their national dishes, available at almost every street corner coffee shop called Kopitiam, food courts, hotels and even highlights on Singapore Airline menu.

If you have travelled throughout this region e.g. Taiwan, HongKong, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, you will recognise a resembling chicken dish. In taste and presentation slightly different as influenced by available produce and local taste. Hong Kong has it’s own cooking style and their way of preparation gained popularity as Pak Kai or BaiJi, 白鸡, also resulting in succulent meat cuts.

The Thai variation is known as Khao man kai, in Vietnam, it is called Com Ga Hai Nam. Every mouthful of Chicken & Rice are as good as the source dish, most importantly it shares the same characteristic of poached succulent chicken meat and fragrant broth.

Hainanese Chicken Rice is about simplicity

Chicken – Traditional Hainan free-range Wencheng chicken feed is with coconut and peanut shells. The adopted Singaporean national dish version is claimed prepared best with a Kampung chicken (Ayam Kampung means free-range village chickens, common in Indonesian and Malaysian). Home in The Netherlands I have prepared this dish with corn-fed free-range chicken, broilers and cut chicken parts, foremost it needs to be fresh.

In all fairness, during the week I will buy supermarket cuts or broilers, but for this dish, I will opt for a poultry butcher. To buy specialities such as Bresse Chicken from France very flavoursome and worth the cooking effort to prepare a particular dish. A rare, the only bird with an A.O.C. a national quality label of origin. Once plucked the chicken are all naked and look the same (right?), but the Bresse chickens have blue feets. A slightly cheaper option is the free range Dutch corn-fed Kemper chicken, very tender and tasty meat. You can easily recognise a corn fed chicken by its yellow-orange skin and when cooked the meat flavour differs from a battery or factory production.

BROILER: A meat chicken processed at the age of 7-12 weeks when it reaches 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds live weight. Historically Broilers were marketed as birds ranging 1 to 2 ½ lbs.

fresh broiler chickens, Hainan Chicken Rice

Halal broilers

Cooking technique: Use the stock for poaching the chicken, with all the extracted aromas the broth can be used to cook the rice. Served as clear soup accompanying the dish or reserved liquid used for flavourings of stir-fry dishes. Click for “Chinese stock methods” on the highlighted link.

Hainan Chicken - Poaching Chicken legs

Poaching Chicken legs – Hainan Chicken

Chicken fat – Chicken fat is used to stir-fry the rice first or made into a paste with additional spice and herbs, to enhance the flavour and then add the stock with ginger, garlic (and optional adding of pandan leaves and other herbs). Use the chicken fat in making the original Singaporean style chilli dip-sauce (if I use a whole chicken I pull out the chicken fat especially to make a big batch, for taste it is worth the trouble of preparing the chilli dip).

Chicken fat

Remove chicken fat and use a rice paste or chilli paste as dipping sauce

Accompaniments – dipping sauces

By looking at the various dipping’s you can retrace the serving country;

  • Hainan the dish is accompanied with typical oyster sauce and minced garlic, along with chilli dip and finely minced ginger with a bit of green onion (shortly heated in oil to draw out flavour and sharpness without darkening).
  • Singapore a customary hot chilli paste sauce (consisting of minced peppers, lime juice with chicken fat, chicken broth, garlic & ginger), along with pounded ginger served with dark soy sauce. Recent years the Thai Sriracha sauce has become a very popular condiment, due to its close spicy sourness and garlicky taste.
  • Hongkong has lime/lemon juice added to the ginger, next to a hot chilli sauce.
  • Thailand a sauce mix made with yellow soybean paste, thick soy sauce, chilli, ginger, garlic and vinegar instead.
  • Vietnam serves the accompanying sauce mix made of salt, pepper, lime juice and fresh chilli (use of fish sauce too).

Rice – Standard cooked white rice is just what it is plain rice. The chicken rice uses a rice paste with chicken fat for intense aromatic flavour. The stock included a variety of fresh herbs; it influences a different result as in soup or cooked rice. If you add Pandan leaves it enhances the grass fragrance, combine or interchange with lemon grass and galangal (aka blue ginger, Leng Kua/Laos, Kham, etc.) for a more defined citrus aroma. Have the pandan leaves combined with coconut milk (and lemon grass) to make Nasi Lemak another fragrant and traditional rice dish.

Hainan Chicken cooked rice

Hainan Chicken Rice either cooked with rice paste or poaching stock.

Hainan Chicken Rice assembly

Hainan Chicken Rice assembly – remove herbs from the rice – cut up the chicken

Almost ready to assemble our Hainan Chicken Rice plates – Singapore style. You can easily recreate this dish, for more information click on “Chinese stock methods” or “Hainan Chicken tutorial” or recipe post.

Chinese stock methods and variations

Preparing Chinese chicken stock, often a whole chicken is used in recipes. Poultry butchers or supermarket, just choose your preferred cut if you rather like using chicken legs/chops or breast fillets.  You need to watch and adjust the cooking time, however when you can do try an organic corn fed chicken for a flavour range discovery.

Preparing poaching chickens

Seasoning poaching chickens

For a photo overview, click on this link for Hainan Chicken Rice step-by-step or start with the recipe. Here I share my method of poaching and stock variations for different results in flavour and taste with a variety of used ingredients.

 

 

Broth method to poach:  In this recipe, I use the whole chicken (chicken fillets or fish fillets), flavoured with Pandan leaves (or in the photo below a bunch of spring onion) garlic, ginger, Chinese wine and dash of pepper, bring to a boil. Add the chicken wait for the broth to come back to boil, turn down the heat, adjusting the level where you can see bubble’s breaking through the surface.

For poaching, it is important to keep the heat near boiling point. The chicken is lightly salted and peppered, cavity stuffed with leek, spring onion or pandan leaves, garlic & ginger slices then submerged into the stock.

Try a variation of oriental herbs and spices (as with court bouillon), this will guarantee a good flavour base and incorporates flavour. Poaching remains and accentuates a burst of flavour impact.

Cook for  15-20 min then turn the heat off it will cook in the residual heat remaining tenderness (if 1-2 chicken fillets only 10-12 min turn down the fire and let it cool in the stock).

Cooking time may vary due to the weight and size of chicken, chicken breast, legs or wings make adjustments accordingly. Rule of thumb, check for an internal temperature reaching 73° C(this level eliminates bacteria) max. 75º C never below!

Another poaching method is to place a double hook under the wings of the bird to slowly submerge into the boiling stock. When the bubbles subside pull out let the stock come back to a rolling point, submerge again and repeat 3-4 times till the meat is done.

Poaching chicken legs

Poaching chicken legs





Preparing stock method: A standard stock uses pork bones and chickens carcases, which is stronger with more gelatin and intenser taste. Set a pot on the stove with cold water and the bones. Bring to a rolling boil, turn heat down to mid fire and remove all the greyish scum (blood and proteins) which floats up.

Keep skimming the surface constantly. After 35-40 min removes the bones or as soon the grey scum subsides, clear the water. Start frying the chicken fat (if not enough or none available use a bit of lard, this is all for taste). Fry slices of ginger, garlic and spring onion.

Add Chinese cooking wine, salt & pepper as soon as it all releases its aroma add water enough to cover it all this is the base.

To make stronger infused stocks and stews at this point, you can add the following spices e.g. cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves etc roast them first to release their aromas. Using spices in food to enhance flavour also adds a powerful antioxidant puch.

Submerge whole chicken in the stock, depending on size and meat with bones or boneless for 15-45 minutes watching the colour changing from pink to milky white. With time experience will increase to recognise the various stages in the cooking process.

After cooking time has finished lift carefully chicken up and pour the cavity empty into the pan. Plunge the chicken directly into an ice-cold water bowl. This stops the cooking process keeping tender meat with a jelly-like (pale-yellowish) skin. Finish with a final rub using a bit of sesame oil for shine and taste.




Traditionally the cut up chicken meat (Bai Ji) was served with the bone still colouring a tiny bit of red, while the meat is perfectly cooked fully white without any trace of pink meat. You know when the cook kept a close eye because too long means it has lost its tenderness resulting in dry and hard meat.

poaching whole chickens

Submerging whole chickens in poaching stock for 30 min, turn off the fire and with the lid on let it cool down in the stock

Herbal stewing method – a stock filled with medicinal Chinese herbal ingredients and seasonings to extract medicinal qualities. Often in a separate container referred as a “double boiling jar”.

The soup in the double jar is cooked in a pan filled with water, this is a Chinese cooking method called double-boiling. It cooks through the heat of the water and not the original heat source (a bit like puddings in a hot water bath).

Not to be confused with steaming. The double jar keeps all flavour, nutrients and essence all locked in while being cooked for several hours for extraction. This cooking method is mainly used for high regarded medicinal herbal ingredients (often expensive) and/or preparing soup tonics for strength and healing purposes. A step-by-step photo post will follow soon focusing on this technique.

Steaming method – Chicken is chopped in pieces and marinated. Traditional the plate is placed in a wok (or a wide saute pan) on an elevated stand filled with rolling boiling water and a dome lid on top for full circulation of steam. Spread chicken pieces in a single layer on a platter surrounded with other ingredients as vegetables.

Steam approximately 10-12min for chicken breast (thickness may influence steaming time). Using a steam cooking equipment or a rice cooker makes this, even more, easier with automatic settings no need to watch the clock and water level.  When the temperature reaches 74º Celsius/15-20min it is done.

Stove pot/pan method: Without a thermometer keep a close eye to the chicken bones, the meat turns from opaque to white and when the bone has turned light brown, the meat is cooked. However, if the bone turns dark brown in colour it means overdone, still good in flavour but less tender meat.

Stock use characteristics:

Preparing nutritious homemade stock or broth is gaining popularity due to an unbeatable flavour.

  1. Poaching broth for chicken with the liquid often used in stir-fry dishes or a light clear (tea) soup.
  2. To cook the rice in the stock or the traditional way by first stir-frying chicken fat with ginger and garlic. As soon as it releases aroma add the rice while stirring coating the kernels all around (or use a pack Hainan Chicken rice paste). Add the stock and cook the rice till it is done.
  3. As soup base for various type of noodle soups.
  4. As soup base




Hainan Chicken rice

Hainan Chicken rice flavoured with chicken stock or paste.

Serving of Chicken Rice: The Chicken is nicely cut in easy chopstick size with sliced cucumber and tomato complementing the meal. Served with a bowl of clear soup broth sprinkled with green onions or a bit of coriander on top. Accompanying dipping sauces; spicy chilli with ginger paste and dark soy sauce.

For other serving style suggestions and information, read Hainan Chicken Rice foodie chat trivia post.

Stock base variations:

Standard Chinese stock base – boil water add 4-5cm ginger and a whole bulb of garlic (quantities may vary according to weight and personal preferences, but this is what I use for a whole chicken). Additions of Pandan leaves, leek/green onion, Chinese wine, black pepper, use of light soy sauce (dark soy sauce is for colouring the stock more than flavour use sparingly).

Chinese herbal stocks – the above with Chinese herbs to infuse the broth into a tonic to improve and strengthen the functioning of the body or increase the feeling of well-being. Most Chinese households carry their own favourite combination of herbs to aid, but Chinese herbs with medicinal qualities are widely available at Chinese Supermarkets and of course Chinese pharmacies in Chinatown or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices.

In Taiwan at the Shilin Night Market there’s a famous stall for 十全汤 literally translated “ten complete soup”, customers would line up every night. The making of this herbal soup starts during the day and simmers for hours impregnating the air filled with herbal fragrance, just smelling would flock customers through the whole evening and night.

TCM practice believes bone broth nourishes our kidneys, supports our “chi” (life essence) and builds blood. Here is a link with informative facts including other recipes “Bone broth for health building” by Jade Institute. Cooking with bone broth especially with pork trotters will make a very good dish and soup stock, in our regional cooking the cooled stock turn gelatinous and is another favourite way to be eaten cold known as “dong jiao” 东郊.

South-east Asian stock base – the above with additions of less ginger or none, with galangal, lemongrass, peppers or bird-eye chillies (hot), few leaves of kaffir lime leaves. Definitely a base for e.g. Thai Thom Yam soups or with the addition of spices as for making Vietnamese Cahn’s.

Meat or Vegetarian stock base –  with or without bones it often has onion, celery, carrots (and leeks). Enrich to get more taste is making use of bouquet-garni as in French cooking, a bundle of herbs traditionally comprises of bay leaf, thyme, parsley. Or an Italian herb mix of basil, oregano, rosemary and sage.

Blanching bones – Set up a pan with cold water add the whole chicken or other parts. The process of blanching chicken, pork meat and/or bones is to remove all impurities (blood and proteins solidify in froth or scum when heated) by skimming the surface and removing it will result in a clear instead of a cloudy stock. When cooking with pork bones I will change water definitely, with chicken it depends on the final dish. If fast and quick, I constantly skim the surface removing all scum till its clear and use the broth to continue or add ingredients for stock making process.

Click on the links for Hainan Chicken Rice step-by-step photo tutorial, background information foodie chat trivia and recipe. By preparing the poaching liquid and making your own stock, most of the work is done. If you have any remarks or questions, please leave your comment here under or send me an e-mail.