Why is it wrong?
Because jamming the cavity stops the hot water from circulating freely. Hence, the chicken is heated from the outside only, prolonging the cooking. By the time the inside is done, the skin would be overcooked and soft, and the meat on the outside dry and coarse. A good 白切鸡, one that's not overcooked outside or inside, should have skin that's still springy, and meat that's soft, juicy and silky smooth. Some people even like it slightly undercooked with the bones still red.
To cook 白切鸡 the correct way, don't block the passageway. Hold the chicken by its head, dunk it in boiling water, allowing the cavity to fill up, then drain the water back into the pot. Repeat the process 2-3 times. This warms up the cavity, and helps the chicken cook evenly as it steeps in hot water. Naturally, if you live somewhere where chickens are sold headless and neckless, getting the bird out of the hot water is a bit of a problem!
In the old days in China, common folks usually ate chicken only when they were making religious offerings. For these festivities, the chicken had to be whole, not cut up. Unless you're following the same tradition, there's really no need to cook a chicken the old-fashioned way. The head, neck and feet may be trimmed, along with the spine. Instead of a cul-de-sac cavern, the back of the chicken is wide open. Heat circulates freely, so the chicken cooks evenly without any dunking.
The traditional method cooks 白切鸡 by steeping the whole chicken, literally head to toe, in hot water. I, however, prefer to use a rice cooker on warm mode. This way, the meat juices released during cooking aren't lost in an ocean of water. Instead, the flavourful liquid may be added to the ginger sauce to give it extra oomph.
Before using the meat juices to make the ginger sauce, I drizzle the good stuff on the chicken. Basting, contrary to what some roast chicken recipes say, does NOT make the meat more juicy. I know because I once weighed a chicken before and after basting. But the extra step is useful because, as the liquid flows through the chicken, some of the salt is left in the meat. Which tastes better when it's salted, everyone knows that.
The best cooking technique in the world wouldn't make good 白切鸡 if you use a poor quality chicken with mushy skin and cottony meat. And don't think a bigger chicken would always taste better. It used to but nowadays size is no longer a good indication of flavour. Bigger chickens may just be pumped with more growth hormones than smaller ones! That's cheaper than investing time and feed to let the birds grow and mature in flavour.
In the place called Little Red Dot, 白切鸡 is usually served Hainanese style with garlic chilli sauce, grated ginger and dark soya sauce. The Cantonese style, with a sauce made with ginger, spring onions and oil, isn't common. I've not seen it anywhere here except Soup Restaurant where it's called Samsui Ginger Chicken. The restaurant serves its signature dish with lettuce leaves, which diners use to wrap the chicken and ginger sauce. This is a sexed up version of the classic style which is sans lettuce, and may be found everywhere in Hong Kong.
To some people, poached or steamed chicken may be just part of a low-carb, high-protein diet. It's something they tolerate, not enjoy. Poor things! (The chickens which die for an unworthy cause, not people). I'd tell the calorie counters to try Samsui Ginger Chicken except they'll refuse to eat the chicken skin, and probably make the ginger sauce without oil. *shudder* *wipe grease from chin* I wonder if they might change their mind if I tell them Samsui women, who loved nothing more than Samsui Ginger Chicken, were all skinny as a beanpole. Nah, cardboard chicken makes them feel all virtuous. Meanwhile, Samsui Ginger Chicken makes me feel all happy. *wipe more grease from chin*
Debunking Beer Can Chicken: A Waste Of Good Beer (And It Is Dangerous)
|SAMSUI GINGER CHICKEN (三水姜茸鸡; 'WHITE-CUT CHICKEN' WITH GINGER SAUCE )|
(Recipe for 4 persons)
1 kampong/organic hen weighing 1.0-1.1 kg, or 850-950 g without head & feet
discard head; trim and reserve neck, feet and spine for making stock; rinse chicken thoroughly, removing feathers if any1 tsp salt
20 g old ginger
peel and rinse; slice thinly; crush slightly20 g spring onion
trim and rinse; halve lengthwise; crush slightly姜茸 (ginger sauce) – makes about ⅔ cup
100 g young ginger
peel, rinse and pound finely; squeeze to remove 3 tbsp juice; set both juice and pulp aside30 g spring onions, bottom part only if you like a stronger onion flavour
trim, rinse and chop finely1½ tbsp groundnut oil
1½ tbsp white sesame oil
¾ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp chicken powder
1 head iceberg lettuce
halve lengthwise; reserve outer and innermost leaves for other dishes; wash and drain the rest, or the amount you want; tear bigger leaves into smaller pieces just big enough to wrap bite size chicken; chill till ready to serveGarnish
wash, slice thinly and arrange on serving plate in a circle
(1) The cooking time varies with not just the size but also the type of chicken. Organic chickens have denser meat and bones, so they need to be cooked longer compared to non-organic chickens of the same size. (2) If you live in the place called Little Red Dot, take note that the supermarkets sell both male and female kampong chickens. For白切鸡, you'd of course want a female bird. (3) The chicken shouldn't be too big so that there's room in the rice cooker for the heat to circulate.
Chicken: Whilst preparing chicken as detailed above, place 2 tbsp water in a rice cooker on cook mode. After rice cooker changes to warm mode, place prepared chicken in the pot, skin side down. Spread ginger and spring onions on chicken. Add 2 tbsp water. Leave cooker on cook mode for 5 minutes. You should now see steam rising steadily from the air vent. Switch to warm mode and let chicken cook till juices run clear when a chopstick is inserted into the RIGHT thigh, about 30 minutes. Discard spring onions and ginger. Place chicken in running water till cool, about 5 minutes. Drain. Drizzle evenly with meat juices released during cooking. Repeat twice. Place chicken on a plate, minus juices. Brush with oil used for making ginger sauce (see below). Cover till ready to serve.
Ginger sauce: Add meat juices to ginger. Stir through. Add spring onions and stir again. Heat white sesame oil and groundnut oil till just smoking. Drizzle on ginger and spring onions, leaving 1 tsp or so for brushing chicken (see above). Sprinkle with salt and chicken powder. Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, adding some ginger juice if you like it more spicy. Set aside for flavours to mingle. Remaining ginger juice may be frozen, then thawed for marinating meat, or making sweet potato soup, 姜汁炖奶, teh halia, etc.
Serving: Wearing gloves and using a chef's knife, halve chicken lengthwise. Cut along joints to separate wings, drumsticks and thighs. Cut each wing into 2 pieces along main joint. Debone breast by pulling. Cut meat into bite size pieces, by tapping knife sharply. Slice drumsticks and thighs lengthwise on side with less skin. Pull bones to loosen, then cut tendons at both ends of bones. Cut bite size as before. Keep bones for making stock which will, please take note, taste of ginger and spring onions. Arrange meat on serving plate garnished with sliced cucumber. Serve with ginger sauce and lettuce leaves. To eat, wrap chicken and dollop of ginger sauce with lettuce. May be enjoyed as starter, finger food, salad, breadless sandwich, main course, midnight snack, whatever.