Braised Chicken in Ginger, Tau Cheong and Rice Wine...and some tips for cooking Chinese chicken dishes

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


This blog is suppose to inspire home cooks. Recently, I was reflecting on this and realized that there may well be home cooks who may be discouraged by how well others are cooking or by complicated recipes.

So, is cooking a natural talent or something which can be learnt? As with everything else, it will always be a bit of both. Unless you are really hopeless at this, every cook can improve, may it be their techniques or recipes.

And the path to better cooking is littered with mistakes. I have many of those. I made Loh Mai Kai and Roast Pork Buns for a huge Carnival recently and I thought they did not turn out well at all. Mass cooking has its challenges. Even my late Mum had her bad days. The only difference between me now and her before, is because of her vast experience, her "bad days" did not appear very often. Part of a skill of an experienced cook lies in being organized in such a way that mistakes or "non-undos" are minimized.

There is no short-cut to improving as a cook. You just need to cook more and think about why the dishes turned out well... or otherwise. For example, the recent lot of Loh Mai Kai was not steamed sufficiently in the final phase and the rice was not properly flavored. And the Pork Belly Buns failed in one simple principle - the principle of proportion. The buns were way too large cf to the pieces of roast pork. A while back, I made some cereal prawns. Disastrous was the most apt way of describing the dish. I did not coat the prawns properly with flour before the deep-fry. The prawns had nothing for the cereal flakes to cling to.

In this post, I will share with you a very simple recipe of a staple dish. Along the way, there will be some helpful tips you can pick up on cooking chicken dishes well.

Braised Chicken in Tau Cheong, Ginger and Rice Wine Sauce

Ingredients
1 Chicken, cut into small pieces
2T of Tau Cheong (Soy Bean paste)
2t of garlic
1T of sugar
1t of salt
Sliced ginger - half a bowl
Rice Wine - Half a bowl (You can use other types of cooking wine or brandy)
1T of oil
1T of Sesame oil
A few stalk of Spring Onions - cut into 1-2 inch lengths
1 bowl of water
1T corn flour

Method
  1. Heat up the oil in a pot, claypot or wok.
  2. Add the garlic and then the ginger. After a minute, add sugar, salt, tau cheong and soy sauce. Stir for  a minute. Add some water (especially if you are using a wok) to ensure that the sauce is not burned.
  3. Add the chicken and stir. 
  4. Add the wine. Close the pot/wok. Lower fire and simmer for 20 minutes. 
  5. Add a bit of water mixed with corn flour towards the end.
  6. Add the spring onions and stir. 
Serve hot. Just before you serve, you can add 1 or 2 tablespoons of wine if you prefer a stronger wine taste. Garnish with some coriander leaves if you refer.

Cooking Notes
  1. If you are serving it for dinner, this dish can be cooked earlier. The flavours will get better. But serve it hot. I don't see the need to marinate the chicken beforehand if you are braising or stewing. I find it funny how some like their chicken to taste like garlic or something else when the chicken itself has great flavours (especially if you are using "free-range" or bare-necked ones, instead of white broilers). You want some infusion of flavours and that's about it. Read up more about the chicken we eat here.
  2. If you are using a whole chicken, make sure you do not use the backbone parts as they add to the "scum", affecting the taste. The blood from the bones of chopped thighs will add a bitter taste to your dish. You can either go for boneless chicken or if you like to chew on the meat with bones (my preference too), blanch the chicken pieces beforehand to remove the scum. Alternatively, bathe it in (or with) hot oil for a few moments before you braise or stir fry it. Blanching meat is necessary if you want a cleaner tasting meat dish. 
  3. Don't overcook the chicken as it loses meat flavour and becomes too soft. If you cut the chicken pieces very small or use a smaller portion, cut down the cooking time to 10-15 mins. If you want to cook it fast, cut into smaller pieces and in a sauce on high fire, cook it for 10-12 minutes. Add some water mixed corn flour towards the end. Restaurants will do that. 
  4. Chicken wings are good for this. One good thing about chicken wings is that the skin clings well to the meat, which is both "white" and "red." Cut up the wings into 5 parts. Remember to blanch the wings first before you start to cook it.
  5. You can add other ingredients to vary the taste and texture experience. Wood fungus, shitake mushrooms, carrots etc.
This is a simple and staple Chinese dinner dish. It is worthwhile mastering it.

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3 comments

  1. this sounds really scrumptious and I can't wait to try it for my son who usually gets his chicken wings grilled! However, I would think the blood from bones eg. chopped chicken thighs would add to the flavor of the dish? after all, boneless chicken would not be as tasty as pieces with bones. i am one of those that like to pick off and even chew on the bones, woof-woof!

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  2. Which brand of tau cheong do you usually use?

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