Since not everyone lives next to a good Chinatown where they can pick this up frshly made, I thought I would post this traditional recipe for everyone to enjoy. This tasty and healthy meal consists of Steamed Chicken, sauteed broccoli, stewed Shitake Mushrooms and brown rice.
Each of the side dishes will be explained in a later post, in case you want to replicate a fuller meal. But this main dish can be a meal of its own, or be happily accompanied by a multitude of side dishes.
For the Steamed Chicken, these are the ingredients you’ll need:
One whole chicken…………………..roughly 1 pound
Ginger……………………………………one head, roughly half the size of your palm
salt………………………………………..1 teaspoon, roughly measured but add to taste
vegetable oil……………………………1/2 cup roughly
Picking a chicken:
The chicken we cooked with tonight was a non-hormone fed chicken. I also chose the smallest one I can find. Not only is it because we have a small family that I chose a small chicken, but because the size indicates in some ways that the chicken isn’t too old. The age of the chicken will affect the texture of the meat. The younger the more tender. You get the idea.
Preparing a chicken:
Now a days, people can get all kinds of chicken in the US. Live ones, dead ones, cut up ones, the sky is the limit. For an optimal taste, get a live one and have your butcher process it on the spot for you. But if you don’t have a live chicken vendor, then any store bought one is just as good. The first thing to do with a dead chicken is to make sure all the fine feather has been cleaned. Take a tweezers and remove any that you see. They will usually be at the tip of the wings. Clean out the giblets from inside the chicken. I throw them out since we don’t eat internal organs….too much calories and cholesterol, but I suppose you can save them and create your own chicken stock. But that’s another post. Cut out any lumps of fat that you find around the neck area. Cut out the butt of the chicken with a pair of scissors. It’s too fatty for me, and I have a mental block about eating the business end of my food, even though what you just cut out is technically the tail of the bird and not the you know where. Also, make sure the chicken is thoroughly thawed before cooking. Iced up meat prevent even cooking.
Steaming a chicken:
Take a double pot and put the chicken into the perforated portion of the pot. Add water to the bottom pot to a level just shy of touching the bottom of the perforated pot. For me, that’s about 2″ of water. Since it’s different in every pot, you’ll have to use your best judgment. Better yet, test it out before you unwittingly submerge your chicken into boiling water. We don’t want boiled chicken here….yuck.
Do not put the raw chicken in until the water had begun to boiled.
And I know it’s elementary, but once you put in the raw chicken, remember to cover the pot. Otherwise, it won’t be steaming, it’ll just be water boiling out of your pot and your chicken getting a slight sauna.
There are a few ways to know when your chicken is done. I know from experience that it takes about 35 mins to complete a 1+pound chicken. To be safe though, you should use a skewer to test the thickest part of the chicken to confirm before removing the upper pot.
The slowest part of the chicken to be cooked is around the thighs where it tuck against the body. If the skewer can’t poke through, then let it cook for another 3 mins. But make sure you’re not poking at the thigh bone and think that it’s not going through. Although a little over cooking never hurts anyone, but tough chicken breasts are just not that rewarding. What we are aiming for is a chicken that’s almost well done. The bones in the thigh should be pink but not runny when you cut it at the end of this dish. If it’s too well done, the bones marrow will be brown.
This is probably the most hocus-pocus part of the dish. There are all kinds of devices you can use to test the temperature of the chicken, (and here’s a temperature chart if you feel compelled), but so much of cooking is about honing your intuition and using simple tools at hand, so I would forgo the thermometer for this dish.
(And to put your mind at ease, there’s a microwave fix at the end, so let it go baby, let it go. There will not be salmonella tonight.)
Let’s assumed that all went well after 35 mins. Your skewer is poking through the thighs of the chicken, so it is time to take out the chicken along with the perforated pot and let it cool. When a chicken is steamed, the skin and meat is extremely tender when it’s hot. So try not to play with your food too much at this point and let it rest in the perforated pot on the counter top with a dish underneath to collect any condensation and juices.
The plain chicken will need a garnish, as well as salt. This brings us to the fun part of this dish.
Wash your scallions and pinch 1/2 inch off the top of each green blades. Or you can take a knive and chop it off so you get an even top. But for me, that waste a lot of food, and I love scallions, so I usually just take the time and pinch.
After you’ve washed the scallions thoroughly, peel the first layer off. Here you see a typical Y growth. The main shoot is on the right, and the older blade of the scallion is on the left. Peel that blade back to the bottom. The reason for this is that the scallions’ outer layer is usually too tough. But if you happen to have one bunch that looks tender over all, then you can skip this.
Take a pair of scissors, and cut the scallions sections. A fine cut would be about 1/8″ thick cross section of the scallions. For the sauce, you can do 1/4″ cut. It doesn’t affect the taste and it won’t look bad. You can also use a knife to chop to that size. My knives aren’t sharp enough and it usually mash my scallions down
Now that you have a bowl full of scallion sections. It’s time to get on with the ginger.
First scrap off the ginger skin by using a butter knife. We are basically scrapping off the skin. No need to use a peeler on this one. Peeler takes off too much. The finger parts of the ginger is tough to scrap off, if it’s too tough to get underneath, snap it off and process. After this is done, thinly slice the ginger first, then julienne, then finely chop down to small squares. Mix well with the scallion in a bowl.
Finally heat up the 1/2 cup of oil on the stove. We want it to be very hot to use to sear the ginger and scallions. I usually heat it up until I don’t see the oil dances anymore and before it starts to visibly smoke. Although my smoke alarm by my kitchen door usually goes off at this point – this also happens almost every time I cook. What can I say, Chinese food is a high heat affair. As embarrassing as it sounds, that’s usually a good indicator.