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Drunken Chicken

Drunken Chicken
Drunken Chicken pictures (4 of 5)

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.

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38 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. This is bookmarked to try. The only thing is that I will have to make a small portion as no amount of convincing will win me Caribbean dining companions with this – people in these parts like to see their food coloured :)

  2. This chicken looks AMAZING, I actually feel like I need to lean forward and lick my computer screen. Am bookmarking it for the next time I cook chicken rice. :)

  3. kean onn

    :) Tip to poached chicken (breast especially) is to let it sit in low heat around 65 degree Celsius. I find if I bring the stock to a boil again, the chicken tend to be tough.

    For the best result, the chicken should be at room temperature before going in to the boiled water. And the most important thing of all is to be patient.

  4. Andy Crofts

    Can’t believe I first made this some 30 years ago. I bought the ingredients from a fantastic – I really mean fantastic (you could spend an afternoon there, and not get bored) – Chinese wholesale shop in Birmingham, England. Even bought an expensevive-ish (£10?) chinese meat chopper to cut the chicken.
    My variation? I substituted the rice wine with sherry. That’s all, Must’ve made it at least 10 times for my guests, and it vanished before I could ask “anyone for more??”

    • matt

      You substituted the rice wine with sherry and you was at a Chinese wholesale shop? You should try it next time with the Shaoxing rice wine….. Unbelievable!!

  5. this is crazy delicious. i cooked this twice over the period of 2 weeks. and my husband is still crazy over it, and he’s been raving about it so much, his friends want to try it too. i always have to cook extra for him to get his 2nd helping.
    thank u so much for posting this. really helps singaporeans living overseas get over their cravings for sg hawker food. hehe.
    i posted this recipe on my blog, and added a link to u..
    thanks once again.

  6. ealna2000

    you have shaoxing wine and sugar in your recipe but i didn’t see you use it.
    when should i use it if i choose steam method?

    • Omar

      The trick is to simmer the chicken after the second boil. Keep the flame low so the bubbles rise up to the surfact slowly, almost one at a time. Secondly, be patient. Third, shock the chicken in ice water after it is cooked.

  7. debbie

    Does the type of chicken make any difference? Chicken fresh and frozen?
    E.g. China Chicken, Malaysian, Australian etc…

  8. Jonathan

    Using the poaching method, with a whole chicken, how long is the cooking time? It seems to be 10 minutes plus time to cool… is that right?

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