FRIED PIGEONS CHINESE VERSION (SQUAB)
These two dishes, Chinese Fried Pigeon and Chinese Fried Squab (Zha Ge Zi and Zhu Gue) are Hong Kong classics and extremely exceptional dishes. Chinese New Year banquets used to include Zha Bok Gop, which is well known in the Cantonese dialect, as one of the main dishes on the 10-course menu.
However, this dish has nearly disappeared from Chinese banquet menus in the United States recently, primarily due to its high price. There are still places where you may order zha bok gop a la carte, but the price is high.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- 2 whole squab
- 3 ⅛-inch thick ginger slices (smashed)
- 3 cloves of garlic (smashed)
- 1 scallion (smashed)
- 10 g of rock sugar
- 3 tbsp. of salt
- ¼ cup of Shaoxing wine
- ¼ cup of light soy sauce
- 1 Chinese spice packet for braising
- 8 cups of water (enough to cover the squab)
FOR THE COATING BEFORE FRYING:
- 2 tbsp. of maltose
- ¼ cup of Chinese red vinegar
- ⅓ cup of water
- 1 tsp. of Shaoxing wine
- 6 cups of canola oil (for frying)
FOR SERVING THE DISH:
- Shrimp Chips – Ha Peen
- Lemon wedges
- Dipping salt (a few pinches of five-spice powder mixed with 1½ tsp. of salt)
- Remove any internal organs from the pigeon/squab before cooking. It is common practice to receive frozen squab in the United States, implying that a small opening near the tail must be cut to extract the internal organs and clean them.
- To avoid ripping the skin when washing, cut a small hole in the skin. A 1 to 1 1/2-inch-wide horizontal cut between the tail and the bottom of the breast is the optimum choice for this procedure. In the exact location, all poultry is sliced and cleaned. You’ll need to use two fingers to remove the heart, gizzard, liver, lungs, and any other gland related to the cavity. To thoroughly clean them, you’ll have to do several passes and lots of rinsing under cold water.
- Make use of kitchen shears to remove the claws from each foot before stuffing it into the hollow. Some older persons prefer to eat the nails and leave the legs alone. A Chinese New Year bird’s legs, tail, and head are usually left intact. Chinese New Year meal is traditionally served with a bird’s head and tail still attached. It’s also true for the Cantonese white sliced chicken, a must-have delicacy at all Lunar New Year dinners in the city of Hong Kong!
- Put all the ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Then add the Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and scallions. Like when preparing pasta, the liquid should be pretty salty––almost as salty as the sea. Allow the sauce to simmer for 15 minutes after lowering the heat.
- Carefully place the squid in until the cavities are filled with the hot liquid, and they are entirely buried in the saucepan. Once you’ve removed the squab from the pot, ensure there are no air pockets in the cavity before putting it back in. Poaching chicken in this manner ensures no cold spots and that the meat is cooked evenly throughout.
- The liquid should be almost (but not entirely) simmering when the heat is reduced to its lowest level. For 30 minutes, boil the squab. If you don’t have time to cook the squab, another option is just to remove the squab from the pot, turn off the heat, and leave the pot covered for another 25 minutes.
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water while the squab is cooking. After the squabs have finished braising, take them from the broth and rinse them under cold water to eliminate any skin contaminants that may have developed during the cooking process. Allow them to cool to room temperature in the tub.
- The Shaoxing wine and maltose should be dissolved while the squabs are chilling in the water, so do that now. Managing maltose isn’t a straightforward task. It’s pretty hard and resembles taffy in texture. The maltose in the measuring spoon should be rubbed into the vinegar and water combination to aid in dissolving the latter.
- The squab is gently shaken out of the water to remove any remaining water. Before serving, use your hands to coat the pigeon with the maltose vinegar mixture thoroughly. The vinegar and maltose solution should only be applied to the pigeon’s skin. Crispy skin is ensured by a little coating of maltose vinegar applied to the skin before frying.
- For a total of two hours, let the pigeon air dry after they’ve been thoroughly marinated. To speed up the drying process, point a fan at the birds. After an hour, flip the pigeons over and use a towel to remove any remaining liquid from the platter. Another way to ensure that your fried pigeon meal has crispy skin is to bathe and dry the bird.
- The squab can now be fried. In a small wok, heat 6 cups of canola oil to 350°F. Check the temperature with a thermometer. I usually advise using a small pot for deep frying, but in this case, a small round-bottomed wok is an ideal option.
- The Chinese spider strainer can be used to carefully lower one of the squabs into the boiling oil once it has warmed up. Use a metal hook or ladle to spoon hot oil over the top of the pigeon while you continue to roast the bird. Cover the head, neck, legs, and tail with hot oil. Keep the bird’s cavity opening facing down while angling it in this manner. Don’t fill the cavity with oil.
- Make sure to turn the bird over to get an even browning of the meat. It’s up to you how dark you want your fried pigeon to be. Generally speaking, I’ve found that this dish is served in restaurants in a darker amber tint. To finish the squab, go through each member one by one.
- Removing the birds’ heads before serving them so that they sit atop the plate is customary. To make Cantonese Ginger Scallion Lobster, we follow the same procedure. Remove the claws and place them in the center of the plate, opposite the heads, at the bottom of the dish. Cut the fried pigeon into breast and leg quarters with a chef’s knife or kitchen shears in half lengthwise for a total of four pieces. Add lemon wedges, five-spice salt, and fresh shrimp chips to a large serving platter and garnish with fried pigeon pieces and fresh shrimp chips.