Soy Sauce Chicken (mandarin: chi you ji Cantonese: Si Yauh Gai)
There might be as many recipes for Soy Sauce Chicken as there are chickens; some cooks call for browning the bird, others do not. Some would have you braise the poultry in soy sauce only; others add any number of spices, honey, maltose, pork and chicken stock, and so on. Indeed, Chinese cuisine has a strong tradition of braising foods in stocks and sauces, especially soy sauce. But since Chinese cuisine has a common method of soy braising called hong shao, (red cooked), which includes in the liquid dried orange peel, star anise, cinnamon, and Sichuan peppercorns, among other things, I think the name Soy Sauce Chicken should be reserved for those soy braised dishes which are simpler in preparation, and “cleaner” in taste.
Professional chefs have countless tricks up their sleeves, and among the most necessary for this dish is carving cooked poultry for attractive presentation. At the very least, chopping whole chickens and plating them in an appetizing way requires a sharp cleaver, a Gray’s Anatomy for birds, and a lot of cleanup. One of my more clumsy jobs of carving is pictured above; but the chicken was far better than it looks.
3.5 lb whole fryer
2 tsp Sichuan Peppercorn, roasted and ground
1 Tab grated ginger
2 pods star anise
3-4 crushed garlic cloves
3 Tab rock sugar (note: sub cane sugar if necessary)
2 Tab sweet soy sauce
1 Tab sweet black vinegar
1 Cup light soy sauce
3 Tab rice wine
Wash the chicken and scrub the skin vigorously with salt to make the skin more receptive to the marinade. Rub the mixture of grated ginger and peppercorn into the bird inside and out. In a wok, stir fry the crushed garlic and anise until the garlic begins to brown, then add the sugar, soy sauces, vinegar and wine. Bring to a boil, then allow to cool. Place this marinade in a bowl, add the chicken, rolling the bird to coat with marinade. Marinate for 6 hours or more, turning the chicken several times.
Drain the chicken well and reserve marinade; heat wok to med high with 2 –3 Tab of oil, then brown the bird on all sides. Combine the chicken and marinade in a heavy pot or clay pot with lid, placing the bird breast side up. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover for about 35 minutes. Without uncovering the pot, turn off heat and allow to set for another 35 – 40 minutes. Uncover, check the dark meat for doneness, and if the juices run clear, remove and allow to cool for 20 – 30 minutes. With a sharp, heavy cleaver, cut the bird in half lengthwise, cut off wings, legs and thighs, then chop each breast and back sections into 3 pieces. Arrange on a platter and garnish with sesame oil and cilantro.