Nook & Pantry is a food blog I follow and admire since the early days. Over the past few years, I have watched the blog blossoms with mouthwatering recipes and seriously exceptional food photography. Authored by Amy, Nook & Pantry is a journal of Amy’s cooking. I love the recipes on Nook & Pantry—simple, delicious, and down-to-earth everyday dish. Please welcome Amy as she shares her family’s drunken chicken recipe, a Shanghainese dish that I truly enjoy.
When Bee asked me to write a guest post for Rasa Malaysia, I immediately said yes. Rasa Malaysia is one of my favorite food blogs and writing a guest post is a tremendous honor. Agreeing was a no-brainer—choosing a recipe, on the other hand, was the hard part. I was torn between a recipe that showcases the wonderful seafood we have here in the Pacific Northwest or something that pays tribute to my Chinese heritage. While we both love seafood, but in the end, because of Bee’s focus on Asian cuisine, I settled on the latter. My family is from Shanghai and drunken chicken is a well-known specialty of the region. Summer is coming to an end but for areas of the country still experiencing lingering heat, this cool and refreshing recipe could be just what you’re looking for.
When I visited my relatives in Shanghai many years back, I remember my uncle made the best drunken chicken. He pulled out an unassuming looking Tupperware from the fridge, but inside sat bite-sized pieces of chicken with a shiny, bouncy skin, surrounded by wine spiked aspic.
Drunken chicken is traditionally made with a whole chicken but no matter how delicately I cook the chicken, the breast meat is never as tasty as the dark meat. The first time I made this, I used a whole chicken, but the second time I used just the leg quarters and was much happier with the results. There are two techniques you can use to cook the chicken. The more traditional way is to poach a whole chicken gently in a pot of barely simmering water. The plus side is that huge pot of water transforms into the most delicious chicken broth that’s great for soups. Or you can steam the chicken. Dark meat is way more forgiving of the higher heat in the steamer. No one likes dried out, cardboard chicken breast no matter how much booze you soak that sucker in. After steaming, the chicken legs release about a cup of gelatin packed chicken stock concentrate and after it’s mixed with shao hsing rice wine, it solidifies into a delicate aspic.
The jello, gelatin, aspic, whatever you want to call it, is the best part! It’s nothing like the strangely colored, rubbery concoction ubiquitous to American cafeterias. This chicken and wine flavored aspic hugs each piece of chicken and melts instantly in your mouth, serving as a built in self-basting system for the chicken. But if jello isn’t for you and regardless of which method you choose to cook the chicken, drunken chicken is best served cold. You can serve it alone as an appetizer or with a bowl of noodles in hot chicken broth or fluffy white rice for a juxtaposition of temperatures.
There’s one catch—the Chinese cleaver. After cooking, it’s traditional to use the Chinese cleaver to chop the chicken into bite-size pieces that can be easily picked up with chopsticks. One decisive twack is designed to cut through skin, meat, and bone. Don’t try to do the same with a chef’s knife, it will never forgive you. A Chinese cleaver is heavy duty because the weight of the knife does most of the work. The trick is to aim well and make one strong decisive movement. Even a split second of hesitation will translates a botched cut job where the cleaver doesn’t make it all the way through the bone, or bone shards. If you don’t own a Chinese cleaver or don’t want to deal with butchering chicken, that’s okay! You can cook drumsticks, which are smaller, score larger pieces of meat down to the bone before marinating so the wine has a chance to penetrate.