Soy Sauce Chicken ("Si Yau Kai")Sunday, October 07, 2012
Editorial: I have done a major rewrite of the recipe.
Si Yau Kai. This is a well-loved Cantonese dish. It's a traditional recipe which has been passed down through many generations.
Someone in your line of grandmas or aunties must have their own version of this. It is not difficult to make and the end-result is satisfying. Accompanied by the right condiments, it can be a complete meal in itself.
For this post, I will teach you to cook using something which is found in every Asian home - the humble rice cooker. It is easy to use and between the "cook" and "warm" setting, you can easily control the temperature range. You need a thermometer to measure the temp of the sauce.
|This is how I set up my rice cooker|
I have also used the Pressure Cooker. One problem is that the skin will break because of the high heat. And the meat tends to have a 'tense' compact texture.
What type of chicken should you use? I have learned a lot about them of late and how they get from the farm to the table. Will say a lot more about this in another post. For now, just get one which is flavourful. Kampung Chicken works very well for this dish. Don't buy the scrawny ones. The fresher ones are slaughtered on the same day. I like those from NTUC as they are fresh and meatier. The slaughter date is indicated.
Using a good brand of soy sauce is important. I have written a post about sauces here. Use premium or superior quality ones as they are less salty and more fragant. Though more expensive, remember that you are not throwing away your sauce after cooking. You can "roll" it, something akin to the "thousand-day sauce" used in hawker stalls. If you are using your sauce to cook a few times, it makes sense to use quality ones.
As for aromatics, there are many options. Think white peppercorn, cinnamom bark, start aniseed for a start. If you can get your hands on them, dried orange peel and liqourice sticks ("ganchao") will add a fruity and unique fragrance. I will get the photos of these on this post later.
Rock sugar is of course necessary though I think gula melaka will work very well too.
Soy Sauce Chicken ("Si Yau Kai") Recipe
1 Chicken (about 1.5 kg)
Two bowls of light soy sauce
Half a bowl of thick dark soy sauce
Dashes of White Pepper
One bowl of Rock Sugar
2-3 stalks of Spring Onions, Cut into 1-2 inch lengths
2-3 inch ginger, lightly pounded
20 cloves of garlic, lightly bruised (if you like garlic, by all means, use more)
Aromatics: 2-3 Star Aniseed, 1 Cinnamon Stick
Herbs: Scallions, cilantro stem and roots
3 bowls of water
Optional - 3 lemon peels, 2 liquorice sticks (ganchao)
Garnishing: Cilantro and Spring Onions
Accompaniment: Boiled eggs, sliced cucumber, Bean Curd (Tau Kwa)
Chilli sauce: Fresh Chillies, Lime, Sugar, and a bit of oil
Note: I am suggesting that you are make more sauce then you need as this means you do not need to turn the chicken around and minimise the chance of tearing the skin. You want to poach the whole chicken at one go. The leftover sauce can be reused again.
- Heat up your rice cooker or pot.
- Add some oils and dump the aromatics, herbs and garlic bulbs in. Fry for about 2 minutes till fragrant (i.e you smell something nice :)).
- Add the sauces and rock sugar. Simmer for about half an hour to develop the flavours.
- Once the sauce is done, put the chicken in. Add water to ensure the chicken is floating in the pot. You may need to use a wire rack to push the chicken in. If it is not in contact with the sides, the skin will not break.
- If you are using a normal pot, control the fire. Put in on a very low simmer. I prefer to use the rice cooker because the warm function holds the temperature well. Cook the chicken within the range of 72 to 80°C for 90 minutes. If you use too high a heat and boil the chicken constantly, the meat will release more juices resulting in drier meat. And of course the skin will tear. The first sign that the chicken is overcook is torn skin. I use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Switch the rice cooker to cooking mode, letting the temp hit about 78C and then put it on warm mode. Once it go down to 72C, switch to cooking mode. I am sure you can get the idea. Depending on the types of pot you have, you can of course experiment various ways of cooking the chicken within the temp range. Thermal Pots are also good for this. If the chicken is small, an hour will work.
- After it is done, take the chicken out and let it rest till it comes down to room temp. At this stage, it is still gently cooking inside. To test whether the chicken is cook, stick something sharp into the thigh meat. If the juice is clear, it is done. If pink, poach some more. It is up to your personal preference. Some like the thigh meat pink.
- Remove some of the sauce and cook it further in another pot., You may want to make it sweeter. Thicken it with some corn flour. You may need to strain the finished to separate out the residual bits.
- Chop the chicken. This is an art in itself. After all the careful cooking to keep the skin perfect, you don't want to mess it up for the dining table. Use a sharp cleaver (ie. sharpen it!). Cut off the thighs and wings first. Separate to larger pieces, smash lightly and do a quick cleaver chop. Hmm...I will show you on to do this in another post as visuals will be more helpful. You can also google and there are many cooks out there who will demo on how to chop up a chicken.
|I am using NTUC's Kampung Chicken here|
The great thing about this dish is after you have made the sauce, it can be reused again. The second time round will be easier as the sauce is well flavoured and good to go to serve a second tour of duty. You can also use the sauce to braise pork belly or trotters. Boil the sauce first before you keep it in the fridge.
Serve with steamed rice, the condiments on the side and add the rest of the cilantro leaves on the plated chicken pieces.The whole cilantro is used - nothing is thrown away.You can also add cucumber, the faithful companion to this dish. And of course some fried shallots will be good too. Enjoy.
Remember, it is important that the chicken is not overcooked. Poach gently...slow and low. If you have a Sous Vide appliance, use it and it is the most convenient way for precision temp control. If not , using the rice cooker alone works well too.
Tell me if this recipe works for you.
|Some dreamy sides..|
|This is another lot I cooked recently using large size white broiler chicken.|