Throughout my life I've been described as an ABC or a banana. For those of you who aren't in the know, that means I'm an Australia Born Chinese, and to take it one further, one who is like a banana - I may be yellow (i.e. look Asian) on the outside, but am all white inside. These two terms I haven't heard since my younger days, but I'm sure are still in common usage amongst Asian teenagers - it wasn't meant in a derogatory fashion, it was instead a label, a way to describe this entire demographic of Asian kids who didn't feel Chinese, sometimes didn't even speak Chinese, and would always describe themselves as Australian first and foremost.
As I've gotten older, I'm come to appreciate my heritage and cultural roots a little more, and feel a need to learn more about my culture so that it is not lost, and so that I may pass it down to my own kids in due course. First stop is learning how to make some traditional Chinese dishes!
The idea to make this dish actually came from a whole organic chicken that I picked up at the supermarket one day - I wondered what to do with it, I was bored with the usual roasting, and somehow this popped into my head. Researching it, I found that there really weren't many recipes available online, and so I kind of played it by ear as well as took bits and pieces from lots of different sites... and I'm surprised and elated to say that it turned out perfect! Super easy, and incredibly authentic, it is just like the stuff you get at the barbecue shops - down to the ginger and scallion (spring onion) dipping sauce!
1 whole organic chicken, about 1.5kg
1 bottle of Lee Kum Kee Chinese Marinade, 410mL (pic below)
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 x 1cm thick chunks of ginger
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 x star anise
1 x cinnamon stick
100mL shao xing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
1. Thoroughly wash and dry the chicken, inside and out.
2. In a pot big enough to snugly fit the chicken, heat the sesame oil and add the garlic and ginger. Stir fry for a minute or two until fragrant.
3. Add to the pot the whole bottle of the LKK Chinese Marinade, then refill the bottle with water and pour that in as well.
4. Add the star anise and cinnamon and bring the entire mixture to the boil.
5. When boiling, turn the heat right down to the lowest setting, and add the chicken to the pot. Pour the shao xing wine over the top of the chicken.
6. Leave the chicken to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
7. At 20 minutes, turn the chicken over - use a combo of tongs and wooden spoon - and leave to simmer for another 20 minutes. Note: if your chicken is larger than 1.5kg, add another few minutes to the cooking time on either side.
8. Turn off the heat and carefully remove the chicken from the pot - be careful because there will be liquid inside the chicken and it may burn (it sure burnt me!). Let the chicken rest on a plate or chopping board for 5 minutes.
9. Now here is where it gets tricky... I couldn't cut it up nowhere near as precisely as they do in the Chinese restaurant, so mine turned up looking a bit massacred. Using a large and sharp knife, cut down the backbone to split the chicken into half. Then remove the legs and wings and chop the rest - bones and all!
10. Serve on a plate with bowls of rice, the ginger and scallion sauce (recipe below) and some steamed gai lan (Chinese greens).
Ginger and scallion dipping sauce
6 shallots, trimmed and cleaned
3 tablespoons of finely grated ginger
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1. Finely chop the shallots.
2. Heat the oil in a small fry pan, add the ginger, scallions and a sprinkle of salt - about 1/2 teaspoon.
3. When the oil bubbles and sizzles, stir the mixture so that the ginger and scallions soften - only do it until it has just softened and then remove from heat. It only takes about 2-3 minutes.
4. Put into a bowl and serve in addition to the soy chicken.
Not a bad start to my commitment to learning more about Chinese cooking. They'll make a Tiger Mum out of me yet!