This dish is a classic. A proper ultimate family Sunday night dinner sort of dish. Its the equivalent of your Sunday roast chicken with the family gathered round the table, but instead of roast potatoes, there is rice, instead of carrots and broccoli there is usually a stir fried veggie dish (pak choi is my top choice) and instead of Yorkshire Puds, there is about two other dishes plus a soup. Having four dishes and one soup has been a Chinese tradition since the Ming Dynasty, something that was decreed by Emperor Zhu during his reign. Ever since then, it has been a practice that has filtered down to the everyday household and to this day, it is a very common configuration at the dinner table.
My love for Chinese soy chicken goes back to when I was five years old, and I have a very vivid memory of taking chicken and rice leftovers to school for lunch. The deliciousness of my lunch was infectious (in a good way), and the pleasant aroma had caused a line of my classmates to form with their hands outstretched for a spoonful of my chicken and rice. Seeing the English kids discarding their sandwiches in favour of more exotic flavours was a sight that made me feel proud of my food from home. Not that I have anything against the sandwich, but my god it cannot compete with the taste of hot chicken smothered in a soy sauce with a hint of sweetness on a bed of steaming rice.
There are two ways to make this simple showstopper. You can make the marinade yourself or you can buy a ready made marinade which is my preferred option. It is the same marinade that my family have been using since I was little, and to me, it is synonymous with soy sauce chicken. If you make the marinade yourself, you'll have to pop to the Chinese supermarket and pick up the ingredients, so you might as well pick up the bottle of marinade and save yourself some money and time! Here is the recipe for using the chicken marinade:
1 whole medium chicken
1 bottle of Lee Kum Kee Chinese Chicken Marinade
4 cloves garlic
light soy sauce
rock sugar (can substitute with granulated sugar)
Take the chicken out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature. Peel and slice the ginger into flat pieces. Peel and crush the garlic cloves. Wash and slice the spring onions into 2 inch strips. Use half the ginger, garlic and all the spring onions to stuff into the cavity of the chicken. Ensure the chicken legs are tied together to keep the stuffing secure. Make sure to pat dry the chicken with paper towels to ensure its not wet.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium to high heat in a wok. Make sure your Wok is deep enough to house the chicken. Once oil is heated, add the remaining ginger and garlic and season the oil. Once the ginger and garlic start to brown, place the chicken in the wok. Let the chicken brown slightly, and flip the chicken over slightly browning the opposite side.
Pour the whole bottle of marinade over the chicken. Fill the bottle up fully with water and pour that into the wok as well, then top it off with another half bottle of water and add to the wok. Add 2 pieces (around 1 inch size) of rock sugar, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Mix in together with the rest of the liquid in the wok. The chicken should be half to 3/4 ways submerged. If your chicken is on the larger side, you can always add more water and you can add more flavour towards the end if needed. Cover the wok with a lid, turn down the heat to low - medium, and let the chicken cook for 20 mins.
After 20 mins, carefully turn the chicken over (this is to ensure that the whole chicken gets a lovely coating). Use a spoon and baste the chicken with its surrounding sauce. Do this continually for 2 minutes, then place the lid back on. If the sauce is bubbling, you can always turn down a heat a little. Repeat this process 4 times - the chicken needs to be cooked for around 1 hour and 15 mins, and you can check if its ready if it has an internal temperature of 75 degrees Celsius.
The sauce should have thickened slightly during the cooking process. You can adjust the flavour to your liking by adding some light soy sauce or sugar (depending on whether you want it sweeter or saltier). When the chicken is cooked, carefully lift it out of the wok, and on to a chopping board, cover and let it rest for 10- 15 mins.
It's now ready to be carved for serving. Carve to your preference - you could do it like a roast chicken, or you could try the Chinese style. Make sure you have a sharp cleaver. Start by getting rid of the string holding the legs together. Chop off the thighs and drumsticks whole, same with the wings, then remove the chicken breast whole. Chop the drumsticks away from the thigh. The thigh can then be chopped into 1 inch wide pieces/strips. Slice the breast in 1 inch wide strips as well. Try to keep the skin intact when chopping the chicken. The wings can be left as is. Serve the chicken by placing the thighs and drumsticks on opposite sides of the plate and place the breast in the middle or on top of the thighs. Ladle some of the sauce over the chicken to keep it nice and juicy. Pour the remainder of sauce into bowls so everyone can help themselves. Serve the chicken with steamed jasmine rice, veggies, and most importantly, enjoy your rice with lashings of the soy sauce!