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.