I’ve been in pursuit of a recipe for some time now. When I first laid eyes on it, Chinese steamed chicken did not make a good impression. It was pale, the skin was a rubber flap-could I make it less appetizing? The one thing this chicken had in its favor was its scent. Handfuls of rough chopped ginger and scallion mounted on top of the chicken, a bright, sharp hook.
I’m usually not a fan of anything steamed. It brings to mind bland and boring; soft, mushy and insipid. In this case the very word was keeping me at bay. I knew it was one of my mother’s favorite chicken preparations, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. If steamed broccoli was an abomination, how could steamed chicken be any different?
One bite proved me wrong.
It only took a few batches in my sweltering kitchen (summer in NYC, don’t let anyone tell you it’s a breeze)to perfect the recipe. I was intent on replicating that first taste so many years ago-a thrust of ginger and scallion punching up decadently moist and tender meat. The first batch exposed all the mistakes I could possibly make at once. The pan was over crowded, the water level in the bottom of my wok too high, the sauce boiled and produced something closer to poached chicken (not at all my intent). So rarely are all my mistakes revealed in one attempt that I reveled in it this time. Batch two was a joy. I steamed only a few pieces of chicken, kept the water simmering at the bottom and when I pulled the lid off my wok I was granted a steam facial of the highest quality.
If it’s frighteningly hot in your neighborhood and the thought of roasting another chicken for your family is enough to make you pick up some KFC, put down the car keys and break out your wok.
Steamed is no longer a dirty word in this kitchen.
It’s pure food love.
Free of Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Nuts, Tree Nuts, Fish and Shellfish.
- 3-4 inches Ginger, minced
- 2 bunches Scallions, minced (~2 cups minced)
- 1.5-2 pounds chicken (breasts or thighs, bone and skin on)
- 3 tablespoons Mirin (Chinese rice wine)
- 1 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- Stir together the minced ginger and scallions. Set aside 1/2 cup.
- Slice the chicken into 2 inch thick pieces. If possible, wield a cleaver and slam right through the bone. I’m not joking.
- Toss the sliced chicken into a bowl with the ginger and scallions, and stir in the mirin, rice vinegar and salt. Mix everything until the chicken is evenly coated.
- Pour two cups of water in the bottom of your wok or stock pot. Place a rack or an upside down bowl in the water. This will keep the boiling water from touching the plate with your chicken.
- Fan the chicken, ginger and scallion mixture out onto a plate or shallow bowl. Make sure that it is only in one layer, stacked chicken won’t cook properly.
- Set the chicken dish in your wok or stock pot, on top of the rack or upturned bowl.
- Cover the wok or stock pot and turn the heat to high. When the water starts boiling (you’ll see steam coming out of the pot) turn the heat to medium low and let the chicken take a steam bath for 15-20 minutes. You can check to make sure it is done by cutting into one piece. Be careful to not overcook the chicken, it should be tender and soft enough to cut with the side of your fork.
- Remove the chicken to another plate for serving. Top it with the reserved ginger and scallion mixture.
Prep. Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 3-4 servings