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Friday, 7 December 2012

Soy Sauce Chicken (Si Yau Kai) - the full monty version

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Soy Sauce Chicken.  Sounds so....uninspiring, doesn't it.  However, do not be fooled by its humble and ho hum description.  It is one of the most famous, well loved cantonese dishes, and certainly one of my family's all time favourites.  Many families have their own variation to cooking this, and the recipe passed down from generation to generation.  The cooking process is actually very easy, but it needs some delicate handling and time.  And some mean chopping at the end. 

The key to a beautiful plate of si yau kai is to GENTLY poach the chicken in the sauce until it is cooked.  No boiling, no pan searing, not even braising.  Just the gentlest of simmering, almost imperceptibly.  This will leave the chicken skin intact, taut and glistening.  If the skin breaks, you have boiled it too much.  This will result in a more "tense" or compact meat texture.

Since soy sauce is the primary flavouring ingredient to this dish, it is important to use a good quality brand.  The good thing is, all those precious extra sauce will not go to waste, the tradition is to "roll" it for the next round of cooking, either to make pork belly or trotter stew, or as a sauce for dry noodles.  Many of the commercially bottled chicken marinade is made from a similar process of chook poaching.  

This recipe is the full monty version, ie the ingredients include spices and aromatics.  I also have a seriously short cut version (2 ingredients only!, which believe me or not, tastes awesome too), but I encourage you to try this full monty version first, at least you know how the authentic method works and tastes. This recipe is more or less how it is being done by restaurants that pride themselves on their soy sauce chicken dish (give or take a few variations proprietary to individual eateries).


Soy Sauce Chicken (Si Yau Kai) - the full monty version




  • 3 Chicken legs/maryland*, about 800g 
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 100ml good quality light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 500ml water
  • 60g rock sugar
  • 5 fat cloves of garlic
  • 2 stalks spring onion, cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 inch ginger, smashed
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 1.5inch)
  • 10 white peppercorns
  • 1 large piece of dried orange peel
  • 1 small liquorice stick ("ganchao")

*Feel free to use a whole chicken, but I use chicken legs because I don't have a deep stockpot high enough to soak (and float) an entire chicken.


1. Leave the chicken skin on.  Rinse and pat dry with kitchen towel.

2. Using a heavy based stainless steel pot or non stick pot, heat the oils and gently fry the aromatics until fragrant.  Pour all the liquid seasonings and bring to a boil.  Turn down the fire and let the sauce simmer gently for about 10min.

3.  Add the chicken legs, make sure the sauce completely covers the chicken.  If there is not enough liquid, add more water.  You can adjust the taste later.  Let it simmer as gently as possible for about 40min. 

4.  Remove the chicken and test for doneness. Let it rest for about 15min.  In the meantime, adjust the taste of the gravy.  Add more soy sauce if necessary.  It should be quite salty, with a tinge of sweetness and fruity aftertaste.



Use a pair of plastic tongs to turn the chicken and also to
remove it from the pot when done.



The chicken skin is taut and glistening, and has soaked up all the
flavours from the sauce mixture.
 
 
5.  Now comes the chopping part.  To minimise the splatter, place a aluminium foil stand around your chopping board.   Place the chicken leg on the chopping board, and use swift, single motions to chop through the meat and bones. Use a reasonably heavy cleaver or chopper so you can make clean chops.   Try not to break up the meat or caused the bones to disintegrate into splinters when chopping.

 





6.  I like to serve this with hot steam rice, some fresh chilli sambal, some additional sauce on the side, and a plate of chilled cucumbers and tomatoes.


Drizzle some additional sauce mixture onto the chicken and serve warm
 
 Oh yes, before I forget.  So what do we do with the extra leftover sauce?



Make a quick and yummy roast pork trotter with mee suah

Visit your market pork seller, and get some freshly roasted pork trotters - they are absolutely yummy for braising dishes.  Boil the leftover sauce and add in the pork trotters and gently stew for about 20min. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

35 comments:

  1. Looks so delicious, Esther. Love the beautifully done chicken. The colour is so even.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mich, yes, when the chicken is fully soaked in the sauce, it will be evenly browned.

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  2. Wow Esther! This is restaurant standard! And sounds easy too. Will try this recipe after my trip!

    Love the mee-sua idea too! Will be good to top it off with my favourite fresh coriander!

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    Replies
    1. Oh yea, how could i hv missed out on the coriander? That would add some extra fresh flavour, great idea!

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  3. Hi Esther, love this dish but never really had good recipe. I'll definitely try cos' it doesn't need frying, boiling and braising. Moreover the sauce is not wasted. Thanks for sharing all the tips.

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    Replies
    1. Most welcome, Kimmy. I really enjoyed the flavour from this combination of ingredients, try it and let me know what you think.

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  4. Esther, I love si yau kai and have been waiting for a good recipe. My goodness, when I look at your si yau kai, I really cannot tahan! And it doesn't help that I am feeling hungry. And it's great that the gravy can be reused for yummy pork belly. Can I check with you, in the recipe you mention "5 fat cloves". Are you referring to garlic or clove the spice? Thanks for the clarification, Esther!

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    Replies
    1. Oops you are right, PH. It is 5 fat cloves of garlic. No cloves spice in this recipe, thanks a lot for pointing that out.

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  5. My mum's Cantonese but she's never made this for me before. I have to interrogate her tomorrow LOL!

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha ! Really? Maybe you have forgotten?! :p

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  6. the chicken looks really good!

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  7. 2 yummy dishes with one sauce! I love this idea...both look so tasty!

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  8. So simple Esther but so yummy! I love all things Asian so I know I'd love this!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Chris, maybe you can try this at home too.

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  9. Hi Esther, when using the leftover sauce to braise other meats, do I need to add another portion of the braising ingredients? It may not be enough just with the leftovers. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kimmy, it depends on what meat and the quantity of meat you are using. For my braise trotter with mee suah, i didnt need to add any extra ingredients as the roasted trotters are flavourful already and the quantity of meat i used is not a lot. In fact, after i braised the trotters, the gravy became even more flavourful and salty due to the roasted pork trotters, so it was perfect with the plain mee suah. I actually added a bit more water. Say if you are adding a new batch of uncooked chicken to braise with the leftover sauce, if the volume of liquid is insufficient to soak the meat, then yes, you can add some extra ingredients (maybe one star anise, one extra clove of garlic, but no cinnamon or the dried peel or ganchao coz it would be too pungent).

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    2. Noted with thanks. Yes, I'll try it.

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  10. Hi,Esther. Your si yau kai looks so perfectly done. Love the look of the glistening skin in the 2nd and 3rd pics, so very tempting! Meesuah looks good too. This post of yours is really making me feel hungry!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Adeline, give this a go, very easy :)

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  11. My family's most favourite dish ! It's one of the most popular Asian chicken dish. Simple and delicious.

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    1. Hi Christine, yes, its good that we can make something that's a firm favourite with so many people, such a simple and delicious dish :)

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  12. Hi,

    Can u provide the short cut version as well ?

    Cheers.
    Ling

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ling, yes i will get round to this very soon, hang on :)

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  13. Hi Esther, your si yau kai look so mouthwatering. I always love this version. The mee suah look good too. YUMMY!

    Have a lovely week ahead, regards.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Amelia! Mee Suah adds a nice homey touch to it doesnt it.

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  14. Hi Esther,

    Your one-for-two sauce looks fantastic. Using leftover sauce to cook mee suah is such a clever idea.

    Zoe

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    1. Yea Zoe, thats the beauty of this dish, roll it! :)

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  15. this is perfect looking! i dont mind shortcut or long version as long as it tastes good but of course, no long cooking that goes as long 2 hours..that one i cannot tahan lor! LOL!

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    Replies
    1. Lena, this one long on ingredients only, but cooking process simple only. The 2 hours type use pressure cooker la :)

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  16. WOW, look at that! I love the luster on the chicken and I can imagine this is soooo delicious! I'd be happy getting extra sauce on noodles too. ;)

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  17. You mentioned good quality light soy sauce. Any examples or which brand did you used?

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  18. Hi Sebastian, I use PoPo light sauce - it has a light and delicate soy flavour - which I prefer over those more established brands like Yuen Chun or Lee Kum Kee. The other brand I use is Lan Fa (flower brand) but it is usually only avaiable in Ipoh.

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