Rice Wine Chicken (Dry version)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I have already written a post on Rice Wine Chicken.

It is the ultimate confinement dish. I am not sure how I got to like it so much as I have never been confined :). I suppose when I was a child, there was always someone who has just given birth. And in those days, it is common for households to brew glutinous rice wine in large jars. And there were always some chickens running around in the backyard. So, sans one, we get to enjoy bowls of this.

Fast forward to modern urban Singapore and you will find that this home-made brew is indeed very uncommon. Commercial Korean ones are quite good and sometimes it is the only option I have.

But there are some benefits to writing a food blog - not many, truth be told, but one regular follower of my blog offers an occasional bottle, brewed by his Mum. He is quite a home cook himself and loves some of my Mum's recipes. So, quid do pro.

Home made beauty :)
The problem with making the regular Chicken wine soup is that it empties a bottle pretty fast. And when served on the dining table, my children are not all that fond of drinking winey soup. I like it though, especially enjoying bowls of it and watching Loiu Van Gaal's team winning the English league (this is a hopeful prophecy).

An acceptable compromise is to make a dryer version. My precious wine lasts longer and my family enjoys it for dinner. The recipe remains the same except that you put in less wine.

The best type of chicken for this are the "free-running" ones. Open air free-range ones are rare these days due health fears from bird droppings from the sky. So, these are chickens under one roof which has enough space for them to move about but indoors. Their range is not free but they can run freely. More exercise means their meat have more bite and flavour. The French bare-neck ones are commonly found in wet markets.

As for ginger, you cannot trump Bentong ginger. It is gingerly fragrant and the texture is just right when braised ; it is not fibrous though it is considered old ginger. These days, you can buy them in our markets though I find those from Ipoh better. I think it is just a question of which farm they come from.

This dish uses only a few ingredients. It is easy. I know some home cooks will faint when they see more than a dozen ingredients. Chicken, ginger, glutinous rice wine, rock sugar, wood fungus and wolf berries. Maybe add some salt unless you plan to eat it with some nice soy sauce, which you should.

I should add that if you have no plans to write a food blog to lure home wine brewers to give some to you, commercial ones are acceptable. The more commonly found Foochow red wine is good for this too.

Wood fungus
1 free-running chicken (cut into small pieces)
250 ml of glutinous rice wine
A few pieces of wood fungus (see pic - soaked and cut into strips)
A tablespoon of wolfberries
200 gm old ginger (Bentong if possible, peel and slice)
5 pieces of sugar crystals
I cube Chicken stock
A tablespoon of oil
1 teaspoon salt.

  1. In a pot or claypot, heat up the oil. Add the slices of ginger. Fry in simmering heat and gently stir for about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the chicken pieces, wood fungus strips, salt and stir. 5 minutes.
  3. Add the wine. Close that pot and simmer gently for 30 minutes or till it is cooked. (If the meat is falling off the bone, it means it is overcooked.)
  4. Towards the end, add the wolf berries. As the berries will cook very fast and lose their bright colour, it is best to add it just before you serve. The heat from the pot will cook it quickly. 
  5. If you like, you can add a dash of brandy or hard liquor just before you serve. 
This is best eaten by dipping into light soy sauce. An unlike the soup version which should be eaten on its own, this goes well with rice.

Now a few words about wine. I drink some wine every Sunday during my church holy communion. The thing is wine is always associated with celebration and in the days of Jesus, it is common to enjoy a meal with it. As always, something good can be abused, made easier with the discovery of the commercial method leading to hard liquors with high alcohol content.

I find it interesting that wine is associated with the suffering and death of Jesus. In it, a precious reminder that hard and painful as life can be (it is mostly bad news in this year's press), we can enjoy the "wine of life" in the midst of it all. Assuming you have no problem with alcohol addiction, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying wine in a moderate, responsible and sensible fashion.

As the wise king said: "Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart..." (Ecclesiastes 9:7, Bible)

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