Hong Zao Chicken (红槽鸡)
This is a homely recipe for chicken cooked in red glutinous rice, or more famously known as Hong Zao Ji (红槽酒) locally and in the Chinese foo chow (hock chew 福州) community. This dish is very nourishing and beneficial especially for ladies. It is a popular confinement food (the month of recuperation after childbirth), but thankfully you do not need to be on confinement to enjoy this dish. I acquired the liking for this dish from my mother. I’m not sure if you are put off by the red hue of this dish (for I was when I was a child), but if you have a chance to taste it, do give it a try – I sure was glad I did because this has become one of my favourite food. I’ve cooked this so frequently that the cooking method has evolved to become somewhat comfortably sloppy, for example I did not even marinate the chicken before cooking. But you know what, it still tastes great. The secret lies in using good quality wine lees.
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To me, the challenge in making this dish lies not on your cooking expertise, but whether you can procure good quality wine and wine lees. The quality of the wine lees can make or break this dish. I’ve tried supermarket wine lees and it was so bad (no wine fragrance with a sourish aftertaste) that nothing I do or add can redeem the dish. When my mother went back to her hometown and brought home the town’s famous red wine lees, I instantly knew what good wine lees are – the taste was divine, and no matter how I cooked the dish, it still turned out delicious. Yes, wine making is an art. Currently, I got my supply of home-made wine lees from my auntie (sorry, she is not taking orders), and for the wine, I use Foochow rice wine which is sold at local supermarkets. If you are lucky enough to have both home-made wine lees and red glutinous wine, that will be perfect. For the extra wine fragrance, I drizzled 2 tablespoons of good quality Hua Diao Jiu 花雕酒 as a finishing touch. The result is heavenly, judging by how we always fought at the table for the last bit of gravy.
- 500g chicken thigh, chopped to smaller pieces (you can also use half chicken)
- 200ml red glutinuous wine (红槽酒) (see cooking note 1)
- 1 heaped tbsp quality red glutinous wine lees (红槽)
- 3 slices ginger, cut to thin strips
- 3 slices ginger
- 200g mushrooms (I’m using hon shimeji here, you can also use shiitake)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce (see cooking note 2)
- 2 small rock sugar cubes or a small pinch of sugar
Finishing Touches (optional)
- 2 tbsp red glutinuous wine (you can also use good quality Hua Diao Jiu 花雕酒 or Shao Xing Jiu 绍兴酒)
- coriander (cilantro) for garnishing
1. In a wok, heat sesame oil. Add ginger strips and fry them until crisp. Set aside the ginger strips for garnishing.
2. Using the remaining sesame oil in the wok, add chicken pieces. Stir fry until the chicken is cooked on the surface.
3. Add wine, wine less, mushrooms, ginger slices and light soy sauce. Stir well. Cover with lid and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Using kitchen tongs or spatula, flip the chicken pieces over so that they can absorb the sauce evenly. Add rock sugar for sweetness and a beautiful glazed finish. Simmer with lid closed for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
5. Dish to a deep serving plate and if you like, drizzle two tablespoons of red glutinous wine (you can also use other good quality Chinese wine) for the extra wine aroma. Garnish with fried ginger prepared in step 1 and coriander. Enjoy with warm white rice.
1. Ideally, the dish is cooked with red glutinuous wine and red glutinous wine lees. But if you (like me) only have access to glutinous wine lees, you can substitute with other Chinese rice wine.
2. Different wine lees have different degree of saltiness. Season the dish with soy sauce/chicken cube/salt according to the taste of the wine lees.
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