Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡 – Sān bēi jī)

This week I have made my own take on a classic Chinese dish – three cup chicken. It is often considered in the west as a Taiwanese dish and has enjoyed deep popularity there, but it has it’s origins from the landlocked Jiangxi province in China. Historically Jiangxi can be seen as the homeland of the Chinese communist party where it established early bases after the fall of the Qing dynasty.

The origin of this iconic dish goes back much further than that, to as far as the late Song dynasty. There are various versions of how it was first made and what combination of ingredients should be used. But it is common accepted from its name sake the dish consists of chicken cooked with a cup of soy sauce, a cup of sesame oil and finally a cup of alcohol (most commonly rice wine).

Some think it should be three equal cups of the ingredients, but the result would be very oily and salty. The name really just highlights the three key ingredients to cooking the chicken. I’m also using gluten free beer instead of rice wine as I think it gives it more flavour, but you are welcome to experiment. This dish goes really well with a cold beer, so it’s a bonus you have some left from the bottle opened for cooking.

Ingredients

300/400 g chicken thigh fillet
50 + 10 ml sesame oil
50 ml gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce if using normal soy sauce half the quantity)
230 ml gf beer, in this case brewdog vagabond (or 150 ml rice wine)
100 g ginger sliced
10 large cloves of garlic, whole
Handful of spring onions
2 Bell Red Pepper
1 heaped teaspoon sugar

Utensils

1 medium wok with lid

Methods  

  1. Start by a dicing the chicken into 1 inch chunks. Cut the bell pepper into the same size as the chicken, slice the ginger and chilli then loosely cut up the spring onion.

2. Add 50 ml sesame oil to the wok along with the sliced ginger. Heat on medium heat until the ginger slightly browns.

3. Add the chicken and turn heat up to high. Stir fry for 3 minutes until the chicken browns slightly.

4. Add the garlic whole and cook for another minute.

5. Add the cup of gluten free beer and cup of soy sauce along with the sugar and cook with the lid on at heat high for 10 minutes.

6. Finally, add the spring onion and pepper and cook until the sauce is all evaporated and absorbed into the chicken.

7. Serve and enjoy!

Salt Pepper Chicken (椒盐鸡 – Jiāo yán jī)

IMG_9961

It’s been almost 4 years since my last post! How much has changed since then! I got a PhD, married and now entering my 6th week in a global pandemic lockdown. So what better time to get back into cooking! After all everyone has to eat!

For my first recipe back into the blogosphere I have selected one of my all time favourite Chinese take-away meals. The dish has its roots in Taiwanese street stalls, where many of the most iconic Chinese dishes originate from. Also truth be told after a night of heavy drinking this is what I always crave, so makes sense it comes from night markets. Chicken wings or bites coated and fried with seasoning mixture, usually salt and pepper with optional extras like chilli powder, lightly fried basil leaves, and garlic bits are added for preference. Delicious things don’t stay local for long, this dish has migrated around the globe in may forms and has an enduring popularity with every audience.

I tried 4 or 5 recipes to try and capture the taste I remember growing up. But none of them was quite good enough. Of course the solution came from my parents, I don’t know why I didn’t just ask them first. I was initially sceptical… a batter without flour? This will never work! But as my sis always says the proof of the pudding is in the eating (name of her blog)! There’s no arguing with that! One mouthful brought me back to my childhood.

So here is it, my parents version of salt and pepper chicken. It’s often done with wings, but you can use boneless thigh fillets or breast. Also despite the name, the key ingredient is actual garlic, and there’s a lot! Bonus!

IMG_9919

Ingredients

15 chicken wings
6 large cloves of garlic, pressed
Handful of spring onions 3/4 will do but I like it a lot so there’s a lot, chopped
1 tablespoon chilli flakes
1 heaped teaspoon salt
25-50 ml gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce if using normal soy sauce half the quantity)
500 ml groundnut oil or vegetable oil

For the marinade:

2 large eggs
1½ heaped teaspoon white caster sugar
1 heaped teaspoon salt
½ heaped teaspoon ground white pepper
½ heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
½ heaped teaspoon Chinese five spice
½ heaped teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder

Utensils

1 medium wok
1 medium non stick pan
pestle and mortar
1 large bowl

Methods  

  1. Start by toasting the Sichuan peppercorns in a small frying pan, dry, until lightly golden. You should get a distinct aroma from the peppercorn. Transfer to a pestle and mortar, grind to a fine powder. This is one of my favourite smells, you can make lots at once and keep it to save time.
  2. Add 2 eggs to a large bowl and beat together.
  3. Add the caster sugar, salt, black and white pepper, five spice and Sichuan peppercorn powder and mix together.
    IMG_9914
  4. Take the wing and separate the drumette and the wingette, (optional if you prefer whole wings).
  5. Add the wings to the egg and mix together then leave for 20 minutes.IMG_9915
  6. Add the oil to a medium sized pan until ~2 cm of depth. Place on high heat until hot.
  7. Add the wings in batches to avoid overcrowding. Deep fry each batch for a minimum of 8 minutes, depending on the size of wings. Stir halfway through to ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly and evenly.IMG_9931
  8. In the meantime peel and press 6 cloves of garlic and finely chop the spring onion.
    IMG_9926
  9. When the chicken is golden, remove onto a double layer of kitchen towel to drain. Repeat step 7 until all the wings are done. IMG_9936
  10. Pour away most of the oil, leaving only enough to cover the base of the pan. Return the oil back onto a medium heat, then add the garlic. The garlic should gently sizzle in the oil to release the aroma, too much heat will burn the garlic and affect the taste. IMG_9940
  11. After 1 minute or so, add the spring onion to the oil and turn up the heat to high. Fry for a further minute before adding the chilli flakes and salt. Stir together quickly.
  12. Add the chicken to the pan, then stir to ensure they are well mixed. Add the soy sauce and stir on high heat until most of the liquid is evaporated.
    IMG_9946IMG_9952
  13. Bam it’s done! Enjoy!
    IMG_9968Side note, I’ve used about 50 ml of gf soy sauce for this, mainly because it was the last bits in the bottle, and it’s delicious. But it does make it a bit dark. You can use 25 mls normally. It looks more like this. IMG_9811

 

Dumplings (饺子 – Jiǎo zi)

IMG_0439Chinese new year fast approaches, hailing in the year of the Monkey. This was my favourite time of the year, school is out for the winter, there’s lots of snow and fireworks to play around with, people I meet gives me money if I say happy new year and best of all I get to eat lot and lots of dumplings. It wouldn’t be Chinese new year without dumplings, at least not when I was growing up in China.

It just so happens to be my grandad’s favourite too, so we (by which I mean he) makes it all year round. But there’s something special about this time of year. I guess it’s a combination of everyone being home together, each taking on the unspoken but very well define roles in the conveyer belt like process with efficiently produces hundreds of identical pockets of steaming deliciousness. Set that against the freezing winter outside and it’s perfect, there’s is simply nothing in the world better. Can you tell I’m a real serious fan?

Just writing about it brings back nostalgia, and whilst sadly I have to spend this new year away from family in China, at least I can still have dumplings… it just takes a bit more effort. Of course it will never be as good as my grandad’s, even if I have ‘borrowed’ his recipes.

I should mention there are three variations of dumpling, boiled (水餃 – shuǐ jiǎo), steamed (蒸餃 – zhēng jiǎo) or pan friend (鍋貼 – guō tiē), the making process is essentially the same. Boiled is my favourite, and if there’s any left over (almost never) you can always fry them the next day to change things up a little.

As for the fillings, there come in even more, much more varieties. Actually that’s one of the beauties of dumplings, you can put almost anything as a filling and it works… kind of. Same for the dipping sauce, this various across the country. Here I will describe a couple of my favourite fillings and my personal favourite dipping sauce.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.26.22Ingredients

For the dough:

500 g gluten free plain flour
5 tsp xanthan gum (not necessary for non gluten free flour)
1 tsp salt
250 ml water around 30 C (200 ml for normal plain flour)

For the filling:

500 g pork mince (ideally containing 10% fat or more)
150 ml Sichuan peppercorn soaked water (place a handful of Sichuan peppercorn in hot water, ideally overnight but at least for 30 minutes)
1 large egg
1 thumb-sized ginger, very finely chopped
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
1 tbsp Sanchi gf soy sauce (dark soy sauce)
1 tbsp groundnut oil/vegetable oil (only if the mince contain less than 10% fat)
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese five spice

Options

From the basic meat filling you can create a variety of different fillings. Two of my personal favourites are;

Mince and Chives

Equal part mince and chive very finely chopped, for best result you want to buy the Chinese chives leafs from your local Chinese supermarket.

Mince, prawns and spring onion

1 part mince
1 part prawns finely chopped
1 part spring onions finely chopped

For the sauce:

3 parts balsamic vinegar
3 parts rice wine vinegar
1 part all purpose Kikkoman gf soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
1 part water
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 crushed garlic
1 chilli finely slide (optional for extra kick)

For non coeliacs:

6 part Chinese black vinegar
1 part light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 crushed garlic

Utensils

1 chopping board
1 large pot
2 large bowl
1 rolling pin

Methods

  1. Add the xanthan gun, plain flour and salt and slowly add the water whilst kneading. Take care not to add too much water. IMG_3420
  2. The dough should be done after about 10 minutes of kneading, the resultant dough should not stick at all to the touch, light and springy. IMG_3421.jpg
  3. Cover with a lightly damped clothe and leave for 30 minutes.IMG_3422.jpg
  4. In the meantime make the filling by adding the egg to the mince.IMG_3432.jpg
  5. Then add Sichuan peppercorn soaked water, ginger, Chinese five spice, rice wine, sesame oil, light and dark soy sauce. Mix in one direction until the mixture is well blended, then add the sugar and salt to taste. Mix again until everything is uniformly blended, you basic mince is done.IMG_3437.jpg
  6. Chop the desired vegetable as finely as possible.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.24.53
  7. Add the vegetable to the mince and the finely chopped prawn.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.29.26
  8. Leave the filling aside, take the dough and knead it for another minute. IMG_3465
  9. Now roll the dough evenly until it’s about the width of a 2 pound coin or about 3 cm.IMG_3466.jpg
  10. Cut the dough into 1.5 cm slices.IMG_3467.jpg
  11. Mix some flour into the dough chunks.IMG_3468
  12. Use the palm of your hand to squash the dough flat.IMG_3469
  13. Use a rolling pin to further flatten the dough, try to roll out the edges more than the centre. This is important for later when actually making the dumpling.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.45.16.png
  14. Take the filling and place at the centre of the dumpling skin.IMG_0428
  15. Carefully seal the filling inside, take care not to let any filling poke out. This will disrupt the seal and may cause the dumpling to burst when boiling.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.48.34IMG_0430
  16. Once sealed around the edges, place the dumpling in both hand, with the edges held by the index and thumbing squeeze in palm. This further seals the dumpling. If you are experience then you can really skip the last step and do this straight away.Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 00.51.22.pngIMG_0435.jpg
  17. Leave the ready dumpling on a surface which will not stick (these look kind of sad but it was hard to get the right consistency with gluten free flour, it’s not as elastic). IMG_3473.jpg
  18. Boil water in a large pot on high heat.IMG_3479
  19. When the water is boiling, add the dumplings which will sink to the bottom. After a minute carefully move them off the bottom so that they don’t stick.  Eventually the dumplings will float to the surface.IMG_3482
  20. In the meantime make the dipping sauce. Crush the garlic and add the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil together. It ready!IMG_3490
  21. When the water is boiling again, add 100 ml of cold water. Repeat this 3 times and the dumplings are done!IMG_3484
  22. Taken them out carefully with a straining ladle.IMG_3491IMG_3494
  23. Serve and enjoy!