SUPPLE SLOW-COOKED SOY SAUCE CHICKEN RICE
Sometimes ideas arise upon the complete rejection of another. This recipe is a perfect example of such.
The other day (I say “the other day” a lot, which really means “last year”), I was watching this video on YouTube, a michelin-starred chef explaining how to make his “perfect roast chicken”. Curious, so I watched, as he demonstrated with a straight face on how he cooks his chicken slowly inside a low-temperature oven for 4 hours, then afterwards, finish browning the skin inside a skillet, and after which, injecting the chicken with melted butter.
I mean, is this guy serious?
I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, the whole notion that one could crisp up a whole, uncut chicken inside a skillet is basically again the laws of physics. The extremely curvy and maneuvering silhouette of a chicken is exactly the reason why people resort to a three-dimensional heat source to tackle it in the first place. Steaks, flat. Chickens, curvy. Simple logic. Is he Doctor Manhattan? Did his pure geniuses allow him to leap into another dimension of space and time to warp his chicken to the skillet? Of course not! That patchy-browned chicken looked like it just suffered from a skin-graft. But you know what, even if, just because I’m nice, even if one could disobey the laws of physics and pull this whole thing off, why would I spend 4 hours of slow-cooking in the pursuit of supple meats, just so I can over-cook it later while I roll it around a super hot skillet like a total moron? “Not too long in the skillet.” he said. Yeah, like you mean just long enough to color the outer patch of the thighs plus to realize that this is complete idiocy? No injection of butter can help you, my friend.
Can you believe this guy….
But wait a second now…. there there there….
Even though his low-oven chicken method is, in my humble opinion, not the answer for crispy skin roast chickens, it would actually… work perfectly for something else.
I don’t know if you know, but there is a whole other branch of philosophy on cooking chicken where crispy skins are actually not the holy grail. Instead, it’s the extremely supple, juicy, and almost silky slick texture of the meat that reigns supreme. And this dish called soy sauce chicken, seen hanging inside the steamy windows of Cantonese restaurants everywhere in the world, is where cooks put their relentless pursuit for such texture to the test.
Traditionally, the chickens are cooked inside a pot filled with a shallow, simmering layer of soy sauce-mixture, turning every so often until the skins take on a deep amber sheen and the meats are cooked to perfection, after which it’s hung to cool down to room temperature in order for the salty skins to tighten and become elastic, and the meats to become “jelled” almost. Not that this traditional method doesn’t work, but it has its flaws. First, again, uneven heat source, making it that much more difficult to cook the chicken evenly. Second, the risk of burning, which requires the cook to stand-by and babysit the chick as it matures safely into perfection.
A low temperature oven, solves both.
The whole chicken encased in its own skin inside a low oven is almost functioning as a sous-vide operation, and on top of which, the coating of that deeply savory and aromatic soy sauce mixture never gets burnt, but instead, gets condensed and caramelized on every inch of the skin as the meats slowly and gently comes of age. The result, on first trial, is perfectly, and I mean perfectly silky and luscious chicken meats that literally slips down my throat, wth firm and salivatingly salty skins that, in my mind, goes head to head with crispy.
The dish is served with hot steamed rice, a good moistening from the strained sauce, and scallion oil, which is the part that will hear no objection from me.
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CRISPY SKINS ARE NOT THE HOLY GRAIL.
BUT INSTEAD, IT’S THE EXTREMELY SUPPLE, JUICY, AND ALMOST SILKY SLICK TEXTURE OF THE MEATS THAT REIGN SUPREME
*UPDATED 2017/06/02: Added an internal temperature for the chicken for perfect doneness.
- 1 small-size (1.2 to 1.4 kg/2.5 to 3 lbs) free-range chicken (weight includes the head)
- 2 (45 grams) scallions, cut into chunks
- 1" (20 grams) ginger, sliced
- 2 star anise
- 1/2 cup (118 grams) soy sauce
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) unsalted chicken stock
- 2 tbsp (30 grams) dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp (30 grams) shaoxing wine
- 2 tbsp (30 grams) rock sugar, or light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tsp ground mushroom powder (see note)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups (120 grams) finely diced scallions
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup (105 grams) canola oil
- TO PREPARE THE CHICKEN: This dish should be done with small-size chickens. Asian chickens tend to come with the neck and head attached. If yours doesn't, then it should weight even less (around 1 kg/2 lbs). In a pot, combine scallion, ginger, star anise, soy sauce, chicken stock, dark soy sauce, shaoxing wine, rock sugar, oyster sauce, mushroom powder, smoked paprika and black pepper. Bring to a simmer to cook for 5 min, then place the pot over ice to cool down to room-temperature.
- I marinated the chicken directly inside the pot, but I would recommend doing it in a large zip-lock bag, because it allows more surface area to be submerged in the marinate. So, place the chicken and the soy sauce-mixture inside a large zip-lock bag, and rub until coated evenly. Transfer to the fridge to marinate overnight (recommended), or at least 4 hours. Either way, turn the chicken once in a while, and remove from the fridge 2 hours before cooking.
- PREPARE SCALLION OIL: Place diced scallion, grated ginger, salt and ground white pepper in a large bowl. Heat canola oil in a pot over high heat until it just starts to smoke a little, then pour it evenly over the scallion-mixture. It will sizzle enthusiastically. Stir the mixture evenly with a spoon while hot, then let rest for at least 2 hours before using.
- TO COOK THE CHICKEN: Preheat the oven on 300 F/150 C. Choose a pot that will fit the chicken neatly without too much empty space. Remove the chicken from the zip-lock bag, then transfer the marinate into the pot. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat, then add the chicken inside. After turning it once or twice to be coated, transfer the pot inside the oven, UNCOVERED. Every 15 min, come back to it and turn the chicken, basting/brushing the sauce evenly over every surface, then return the pot back in the oven. The chicken will be perfectly done with a beautiful sheen after about 55 to 60 min, until the internal temperature around inner thighs reaches 172 F/ 77 C.
- KEEP IN MIND that this timing is for a small chicken about 2-plus lbs. I haven't done it with large chickens (and wouldn't want to), but just purely guessing, I would add 20 more minutes to every 1 extra lb, but go by the internal temperature just to be safe. ALSO, when I say "perfectly done", I mean it as really supple meats with a bit of pink inside the bones.
- After the chicken's cooked, hang it either by kitchen-twines around its wings or with meat-hooks, then brush the skin thinly with vegetable oil (keeps it shiny and prevents drying). Let it cool down to room-temperature. Strain the sauce, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as you can, then discard the solids. Add 2~3 tbsp of chicken stock to the sauce to thin out the saltiness, set aside.
- To serve, cut the chicken in small pieces and place over steamed jasmine rice. Ladle everything with the sauce and a good dollop of scallion oil. Sprinkle with ground white pepper.
The chicken is served at room-temperature over hot rice.
To make mushroom powder, simply grind dried shitake mushrooms in spice-grinder until finely ground.
TerrySeptember 21, 2016 at 12:31 AM
Is the chicken cooked uncovered in the pot?
noteSeptember 21, 2016 at 11:05 PM
After turning it once or twice to be coated, transfer the pot inside the oven, UNCOVERED.
JanisSeptember 21, 2016 at 1:11 AM
Could this work with Cornish game hens instead?
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 21, 2016 at 2:24 PM
Janis, I just googled cornish hen and it weights about 2 lbs in average, so yeah I think so!
ShelleySeptember 21, 2016 at 3:09 AM
Oh man, this is total comfort food – never thought I would be able to make it myself, as my parents would always buy it as take out (I’ve been known to hog all of the scallion oil). I do have a question, would this work for a slow cooker too?
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 21, 2016 at 1:09 PM
Shelley, I’ve never used a slow cooker so I don’t know.. But I think it would resemble more towards the traditional way (cooked on a stove-top), instead of a all-around heat.
PamelaSeptember 21, 2016 at 4:49 AM
With just the two of us, a whole chicken becomes too much food. I am always looking for ways to try new dishes but reduce the amount of food to be produced. ;-)
This sounds so yummy and something I would like to try. I like all those spices. The drying would be more difficult and I might skip it, but this would be great done with a whole mess of chicken wings instead of a whole chicken. Another idea would be a deboned chicken thigh and leg which is easy to come by here in Japan and comes in one large piece – enough for 2. I could marinate the meat flat in a ziplock bag, but when cooking, I could roll up the thigh/leg meat with cooking twine to expose the skin on all sides and roll it around in the pan every 15 minutes or so. Drying would be fairly easy. I could cut the rolled meat into pretty slices……
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 21, 2016 at 1:09 PM
Pamela, that’s certainly one way to go about it :)
PamelaSeptember 23, 2016 at 9:36 PM
I made this tonight with two leg-thigh-bone-attached cuts of chicken you can get in Japan. It was really wonderful! My husband who usually does not eat a lot of chicken gobbled his down! And much of mine. My hat is off to you again.
This is a really easy dish with the making of the marinade the most time-consuming thing. Just put it in the oven at the correct temperature basting it every once a while. Really a no-brainer because of the good instructions that you have provided.
I expected leftovers but there were none. With such a small amount of meat, I should have used less marinade. I’ll remember that next time.
I would put a little less salt in the scallion oil but otherwise it was a hit.
Could this be used with pork roast, I wonder….?
georgieSeptember 21, 2016 at 1:27 PM
it’s lovely … :)
ShandaSeptember 21, 2016 at 2:56 PM
Chicken is marinating as we speak! Also wondering if the pot should be covered during cooking…
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 21, 2016 at 3:01 PM
Shanda, no don’t cover the pot! We want the sauce to condense and caramelize on the skin :)
ShandaOctober 27, 2016 at 7:04 AM
So I had to use a giant 5lb. chicken on steroids, because I live in America and that’s how we roll (seriously, that was the smallest one I found). But it turned out super delicious. I’m wondering if I could use a duck instead (I freaking love duck).
mandy@ladyandpupsOctober 27, 2016 at 1:06 PM
Shanda, you can certainly try duck, but I think the dark meat area would be tougher (because that’s how ducks roll :), and the cooking time will definitely be longer.
Lawrence VosperSeptember 21, 2016 at 7:56 PM
Looks delicious as always, will be marinading my chicken tonight :D
Jessica CarbonSeptember 21, 2016 at 9:14 PM
The techniques of your cooking always amazes me! I love your process and the dish looks absolutely amazing. Exactly what one would need after a long day.
Geri NarvaezSeptember 21, 2016 at 10:27 PM
I am waiting for the day when Mandy uses me as her “guinea pig” when testing new dishes. Doesn’t matter to me if she likes or dislikes the outcome of her dishes. I will test them no matter what. Please, Mandy. Don’t you need a “professional Guinea pig?” I will help you decide, which is the part that will hear no objection from me.
Joke! (but not really Haha) Great Job, Mandy as always. Your photos are simply superb!
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 21, 2016 at 10:30 PM
Geri, please kindly submit your resume. Oh wait, you’re the only applicant. You’re hired.
RachelSeptember 22, 2016 at 3:31 PM
I tried this tonight and it’s sensational! Reminds me of my days living in Singapore. My family thought it was quite funny watching me hang the chicken up! The only thing is that I found it was too underdone once I cut it up (bloody juices) so I put it back in the oven and turned it off and it didn’t dry out too much. Putting a bowl of steaming water in would have helped too but I had left my husband to that job!
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 23, 2016 at 12:22 PM
Rachel, sorry the chicken was undone.. It’s so hard to get these recipe perfect when every ovens work differently, and the size of the chicken varry too. But once you know the magic number that works for your oven, it should all be smooth sailing. It sounds like your chicken may need another 20 min… Purely guessing
AlexSeptember 22, 2016 at 8:08 PM
The skin of a roast skin has got to be one of my all-time favorite foods. When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes buy a rotisserie chicken for dinner (a BIG luxury in post-soviet Ukraine), and if it was left unattended even for a second, you best believe most of that skin would be gone almost immediately… typical dog behavior, if you ask me.
Anyway… looove these photos <3
Soe @limeandcilantroSeptember 23, 2016 at 10:02 AM
I agree with you. Asians are not too crazy about crispy skin. I am perfectly fine eating a flabby skin. In fact, I love for those odd-end-bits-moments. ?
SabrinaSeptember 30, 2016 at 5:34 AM
What an interesting cooking method! This looks delicious
RV GoddessOctober 3, 2016 at 3:45 AM
I made this dish last night, after marinating the bird overnight. Could only get a three pound chicken, so cooked it 90 minutes. It was perfect. The smell! It reminded me of when we lived in Taipei. Instead of hanging the chicken, I impaled the whole chicken with the tube of my bundt cake pan to dry. Worked perfectly. The left-overs are going into a noodle soup for dinner tomorrow. Thank you, Mandy. Hao Chur!
kgOctober 3, 2016 at 10:25 PM
Oh my Wow!! This is Fabulous…. This style of cooking ranks as some of my favourite of all time, I literally can’t get enough of it. Do you think it would be overdoing it to cook the rice à la Hainan Ji Fan – or do you think having the rice clean to balance out the richness of the chicken is preferable ? So going to try this…
mandy@ladyandpupsOctober 3, 2016 at 10:41 PM
Kg, I love hai nan rice, but since you will be using the cooking sauce for the rice as well, there might be too much going on. But again, hai nan chicken rice in Singapore use sweet soy sauce too, so it might work well too. Try it! Let me know
StephanieOctober 12, 2016 at 1:15 PM
Mandy Mandy Mandy. You are a genius. This recipe is perfection. As another commenter said – the smell! The depth of flavor! I made this for dinner tonight and it was so much work but I have to say it is among the best chickens I’ve ever had in my life, including Zuni’s roast chicken, Thomas Keller’s roast chicken, and the rotisserie chicken at Costco :) this is going into the regular rotation!
ErickOctober 25, 2016 at 6:30 AM
Made it. Tasted great. Fantastic recipe. Exceptional technique. Awesome photos. Thanks
thefoliaNovember 20, 2016 at 1:16 PM
I just may be doing this on Thursday…happy feasting!
SLTDecember 2, 2016 at 10:36 PM
Thanks for the recipe! My chicken turned out great. Hubby complimented that it was the “mother of all chicken”. As for the scallion oil, I was in a hurry hence did not let it rest for 2 hours… only 15 minutes of rest. Was wondering what difference would it made with the resting time?
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 3, 2016 at 3:37 AM
SLT, it just gives a more well rounded flavor in my opinion :). I’m glad you guys enjoyed it!
AdrienneJanuary 28, 2017 at 12:58 PM
Hi, would it be possible to use a saucepan instead of a pot? Just cause I do not have a pot that could go into the oven. But I do have a big enough saucepan or baking trays. Would the substitution be possible?
mandy@ladyandpupsJanuary 28, 2017 at 3:23 PM
Adrienne, it should work, too, but the chicken won’t be in as much contact with the sauce as in a pot. So maybe you have to baste/turn more often.
Adrienne ChoFebruary 3, 2017 at 7:41 AM
Thank you! I’ve got another question. I really couldn’t find 2-3lb chicken here in the states. I’ve got a 5lb chicken. Should I double everything and extend cooking time?
mandy@ladyandpupsFebruary 3, 2017 at 1:11 PM
Adrienne, yeah you should extend the cooking time. Start with an extra 20 minutes, then perhaps check with a wooden skewer (if the juice runs clear). This type of chicken is supposed to still have a tiny bit of pink inside the bones, but if you want to be safe, you can do a longer time.
JohnnyFebruary 14, 2017 at 4:29 AM
Would this method work well with other chicken recipes like white cut chicken??
mandy@ladyandpupsFebruary 14, 2017 at 1:20 PM
Johnny, sure, but the cooking time will vary depending on the sizes of the chicken. 25~30 min for quartered chickens I’m guessing :)
MaryMarch 29, 2017 at 12:00 PM
Wow, my partner and I are totally in the same boat! Love this post. You nailed it.
the impossible gameSeptember 13, 2017 at 10:23 AM
Thank your site! information your share is useful to me!
JohnnyNovember 16, 2017 at 3:28 AM
no jokes, i made this yesterday and it might be the best chicken i’ve ever eaten
SarahDecember 13, 2017 at 3:08 AM
I love this chicken and have probably made it 5 times and it always turns out/tastes great. I have noticed though that sometimes, the sauce doesn’t stick to the chicken skin in patches and ends up looking splotchy. Do you know why that would happen?
WendyFebruary 23, 2018 at 4:49 AM
I was forced to make this with a 5 pound ‘Murica chicken, didn’t have time to let it come to room temp before cooking, and then forgot to baste the first half hour. Even so – the MOST DELICIOUS CHICKEN ever to come out of our oven. Can’t wait to do it again (this time with more attention to detail.}
MaiMarch 29, 2018 at 10:52 PM
This recipe looks absolutely delicious and I really want to try it without altering the recipe. My husband, however, detest chicken skin like an enemy. I would love to try this recipe using chicken breasts/thighs instead. Do you think the marinade would be too salty for the breasts/thighs? What would you recommend? Let me know!
And thank you for sharing your recipes!
mandy@ladyandpupsMarch 30, 2018 at 1:49 AM
Mai, how about if you cook a whole chicken and just remove the skin afterwards? The meat would be much more moist that way:)
MarieMay 10, 2018 at 10:33 PM
we tried this recipe with chicken thighs today. it was TRULY DELICIOUS. And the beauty of it was we only had to wash ONE POT! Thank you for sharing this idea!
camikeAugust 10, 2018 at 11:40 AM
This dish is very special, I will try to cook from your guide. Thank you for sharing.
erickDecember 29, 2019 at 3:01 AM
First made this recipe about three years ago. I’ve made this recipe a dozen times now. Tastes wonderful; always receives compliments. Making it again for New Years. Thanks for inspiration.
AndyMay 20, 2020 at 1:55 AM
I tried cooking this sous vide at 155F for 2.5 hours (marinated overnight in the bag, just dropped it in the water bath in the morning). Worked wonderfully. Great color and amazing taste with a texture like 白切鸡.
The oven method is definitely superior (more supple? deeper color?), but on lazy days, the sous vide method works well.
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 20, 2020 at 2:20 AM
Andy, wow awesome tips! I might try that myself!
ElleAugust 8, 2020 at 11:08 PM
I had been craving this since we moved away from NYC to country home in mid-west USA, we have little to no access to Chinese food. Since Covid-19 lockdown, access to food has been even more limited and as a break for me, my sweet hubby cooks dinner once a week. He followed your recipe to a tee and for a few hours, I was dying from the aroma permeating from our kitchen. Came out so awesome and brought back many sweet childhood memories of our family meals. I was still thinking about it this morning so I had some of it this morning with steamed rice for breakfast! hahaha Thank you for a wonderful recipe!
play solitaireDecember 24, 2020 at 4:09 PM
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holiday agency ukDecember 17, 2021 at 8:26 PM
This is complete cuisine, and I never imagined I’d be able to make it myself because my parents usually ordered it as take-out (I’ve been known to eat the entire scallion oil). I do have a question, though: will this recipe work in a slow cooker as well?
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 18, 2021 at 2:29 PM
Hi, I’ve never used a slow cooker so I have no idea! Sorry!