Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chinese Steam Salted Chicken with ginger scallion dip

I'm not sure what the official name of this dish is, maybe I've seen it referred to as "steamed chicken" or "salted chicken" in Chinese restaurants.

You've most likely had it.  It's just a simple steamed chicken that is salted prior to cooking, chopped into chunks before serving, and served with a ginger-scallion-oil dipping sauce (the Cantonese seems to love these types of oil based of dipping sauces)
I don't think people realize how simple this dish is!
I've seen this dish served as an appetizer at Chinese banquet weddings, and on a recent visit to the Chinese restaurant, Jeff was tempted to order the dish at $12 per plate (which is half a chicken.  Whole chicken costs double)!  I suggested that we order something else, and I will make the dish when we get home.

I think $12 for half of a chicken at the restaurant is such a rip off.
You can buy a whole chicken at the store for less than half that price, and there is almost no prep work that goes into making the dish.
You can find chicken at the store for about 99 cents a pound (a whole chicken is around 4 pounds).
You can also use other portions of a chicken if you don't want to use a entire chicken, such as bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, or chicken legs.

1. The prep work:
Rub a thin layer of salt under and over the skin of the chicken, and discard the giblets.
Place a few ginger and green onion slices under the skin of the chicken.

2. Cook the chicken:
Set the chicken in the steamer and when the water boils, steam your whole chicken for about 40-45 minutes.
Use less time if you are only cooking a few pieces of chicken.
When you pierce the chicken meat, the juices should run clear when it's done.

3. Take the chicken out of the steamer and let it cool down for 15 minutes, so its cool enough to handle.

4. Optional step: make the dipping sauce:
Using a hand grater/microplane, grate some ginger into a heat-resistant bowl.  Then add in thinly sliced scallions (about half/half).  Then pour about half a teaspoon of salt on top of the ginger and scallions.  In a pan, heat up some oil then pour the oil on top of your ginger scallion salt pile -- you should hear a sizzling sound.
And there you have it, a very typical Cantonese dipping sauce.

5. When the chicken is cool enough to touch, chop the chicken into pieces.  At Chinese restaurants, they like to use the big heavy cleaver to cut through the bone. I don't agree with this method -- not only is it dangerously unnecessary (I like to keep my fingers, thanks), but chicken bones turns into sharp shards easily.  No, I don't like to eat bone shards.
I simply cut the meat off the bones (similar to carving a turkey), into large chunks, then slice up the meat.

6. Plate up the meat, and serve with the dipping sauce. 
Serve with steam rice.
(Note:  you could also use the leftover steamer water to cook your rice, because it has the flavor of the chicken and salt in the water).
I like to eat the leftover chicken cold (rather than reheating it).  This dish feeds me for several days.

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