Braising in soya sauce is one of the most basic Chinese cooking styles. My recipe is slightly modernized but its essentially the same Chicken In Soya Sauce that my mother used to cook for me when I was young. My ‘trick’ is to cook the chicken for only a short amount of time but have it soak in the braising liquid for a long time. The result is chicken that is really tender but still tasty. Its a great for to cook chicken if you don’t have an oven.
- Chicken Leg with Thigh (4)
- Dark Soya Sauce (1/4 cup)
- Chinese Wine (1/4 cup)
- Onion (1)
- Maple Syrup
- Five Spice Powder
- Black Pepper
Optional Ingredients in photo
- Bok Choi
- Konnyaku Vermicelli (aka Shirataki)
- Defrost the chicken completely and pad dry with kitchen towels. Trim off any visible chunks of fat on the the thigh with a pair of scissors. The skin tends to shrink so leave any excess skin on.
- Marinate the chicken in 4T of maple syrup.
- Prepare your optional ingredients (see notes below) at this stage. If they require more than 7 minutes of cooking time, par-boil them for a while, otherwise, just cut them to the right size.
- Next, cut an onion into thick rings. Choose a pot which the chicken will fit snugly in a single layer. Stir fry the onions in the pot with 3T of vegetable oil over a very low flame.
- After the onion becomes soft and starts to caramelize, this will take some time, mix 1/4 cup dark soya sauce, 1/4 cup Chinese wine with 1 cup water and add this to the pot.
- Turn up the heat and bring to a strong boil. Add 1 heaped T of sugar, 1T five spice powder, 1T nutmeg and 1T black pepper.
- Arrange the chicken legs nicely into the boiling pot upside down and pour in all the left over maple syrup marinade. Top up with the optional ingredients to bring up the level of the liquid. Ensure the chicken is fully submerged. The vegetables don’t need to be completely covered as the liquid will be splashing about as it boils.
- Boil the chicken for exactly seven minutes. Leave the pot uncovered so the liquid can thicken and place the cover on only for the last 30 seconds. After turning the fire off, leave the pot covered for several hours, preferably overnight. This is the part where the flavour soaks into the chicken.
- You don’t want the meat to be overcooked, so remove the chicken first when reheating. When the braising liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat off before putting the chicken legs back in the pot. Give the chicken 5 min to warm up before serving.
- You can swap in or add all kinds of other flavours to the soya sauce at step 6 depending on your preference, for example ginger slices, cinnamon, cloves.
- There are many optional ingredients you can add to the pot with your chicken, just remember they must be of a type that does not adsorb too much flavour. For the photo I used potatoes, bok choy and shirataki, a yam based vermicelli which is already mostly water. Other possible options are chestnuts, yam and any kind of leafy vegetables.
- If you don’t have Chinese wine, try sherry. My favourite for this recipe is actually sake. Do not skip the alcohol as it is needed to mellow out the soya sauce. It will evaporate anyway.
- If you are using chicken breast meat, consider brining it first.
- There will be lots of chicken-flavoured braising liquid left over. It is very useful. You can use it to braise additional vegetables that cannot be left in the braising liquid overnight, like eggplant, carrots, mushrooms. You can also use them to marinate boiled eggs (as in picture), as a BBQ marinade, to fry noodles etc. If you strain the liquid before storing it in an air-tight container in the fridge, it can easily last a fortnight (it should congeal into a gel).