Ying's ideas of easy Chinese home-cooking

Pot dish in cold night – Cantonese Chicken Pot, get to know Cantonese cooking wine

廣式雞煲

Szechuan spicy hotpot is famous recently but in Cantonese regions, especially for parents who don’t eat hot and spicy food, Cantonese chicken pot has been the best choice in late autumn and winter. It can be served as a pot dish or as hotpot with a hob in dining table. For a typical hotpot feast, various ingredients are needed, such as different meat slices, seafood, mushrooms or tofu, vegetables, broth, and dipping sauce. However, only several ingredients are required, chicken in good quality (chicken is Cantonese’ favourite protein), some staple spices and vegetables, soy sauce, and Cantonese rice wine.

Cantonese rice wine
Cantonese rice wine, or cooking wine, or Cantonese spirit, or Cantonese Mijiu, is a must-have in any Cantonese household. It’s not only for cooking, but drinking. Maotai is the most famous but expensive Chinese wine, so for elder generation of Cantonese, Cantonese Mijiu is a more affordable choice. I won’t drink it directly as beverage but make fruit wine with it every year. The one I use for cooking is about 30% ABV, but for making fruit wine, I usually choose those above 40% ABV.

For me, Cantonese rice wine is one of the essential in my home-cooking, the other is soy sauce. Well, in those days I lived in Scotland, more than ten years ago, it wasn’t easy to obtain Cantonese rice wine in the town I lived. Thus I would use vodka, or even whiskey, for substitute. However, it’s hard to replace the special and familiar aroma of Cantonese rice wine. It’s the smell of Cantonese cooking.

The usage of cooking wine is varied. Usually it’s for removing the gamey or fishy taste of meat or fish. It would be added when marinating, or in cooking. Also, a splash in stir-fried meat or vegetable would enhance the final taste. In this recipe, Chicken Pot, a larger amount, half cup or even more is required. Don’t worry, after cooking, only fragrance remains.

Ingredients – serve 2 to 3
 Chicken, one medium size, about 600g, or use chicken thigh, try to obtain fresh chicken in good quality, removed head, neck, tail, and extra fat, cut into big pieces;
 Green and red chili pepper, 3, sliced;
 Onion, half, sliced;
 Carrot, half, sliced;
 Spring onion, 4 stalks, cut into matchsticks;
 Ginger, one big piece, 30g, sliced;
 Garlic, 6, peeled;
 Chinese lettuce, 500g or as much as you want, one of the most common Chinese vegetable, should be easily obtained but can be replaced with lettuce, bok choy, or any green leafy vegetable;
 Fried tofu sheet roll, 2-3 pieces or as many as you want; should be easily found in Asian grocery store, if not, look for dry tofu sheet roll, fried tofu or even tofu;
When having Cantonese chicken pot, Chinese lettuce and tofu roll are necessary. Both of them would absorb the leftover tasty chicken sauce.

Seasoning ingredients –
 Cantonese rice wine, half cup, it should be easily obtained in any Chinese grocery store, if not, use other types of Chinese cooking wine;
 Douban Sauce (Douban chili sauce), 1-2tbsp, one of the most commonly-seen Chinese hot sauce, mildly spicy, also can be obtained in most supermarkets worldwide;
 Light soy sauce, 4tbsp;
 Dark soy sauce, 1/2 or 1 tsp;
 Sugar, 2tsp;
 Cornstarch, 1tbsp.

How to do –
1. Marinade the chicken first. 2tbsp of light soy sauce, 1/2tsp of dark soy sauce, 1tsp of sugar, 1tbsp of cornstarch, mix well, in fridge for half an hour;

2. Prepare the vegetables. Slice and peel all vegetables. The amount of vegetable needn’t be too precise. All tasty flavour would melt in the sauce and the chicken, and they would turn soft and absorb all taste after cooking;

3. Heat a little oil in hot frying pan or wok, put in the chicken, in medium heat, seal till golden;

4. Then put in 1-2 tbsp of Douban sauce, 2tbsp of light soy sauce, 1tsp of sugar, all vegetables, flip and stir well with the chicken;

5. Transfer all ingredients to a casserole, serve with portable hob in dining table, just like hotpot. Then pour in 1/2 cup of Cantonese rice wine, lid on, bring to boil, lower to medium low heat, simmer for 10 minutes, turn to low heat, then tuck in!
6. You must eat with steamed rice. Make sure you prepare more rice than usual, the sauce is so tasty that you wouldn’t help having more rice;

7. There should be some sauce leftover after finishing the chicken, add a little water, half cup should be enough. Then cook the lettuce and fried tofu roll, let them absorb the essence at the bottom of the pot.

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