You can find Soy Sauce Chicken, also known as “See Yao Gai,” in the windows of many Chinatown restaurants, where it is kept warm by heat lamps. It’s the same area as the roasted fowl, chicken, and pig. There’s something to be said about each, but it’s hard to top properly prepared Soy Sauce Chicken.
Soy sauce chicken shares a cooking method with our Cantonese poached chicken with ginger scallion oil (bai qie ji) but differs significantly in flavor and presentation. What makes this dish special is the combination of soy sauce, aromatics, and spices that have been slowly simmered in a pot. Once you’ve made it a few times, you can season it to your liking by adjusting the sauces and spices. Getting the right proportions of ingredients required a few tries on my part.
Proceed with the recipe, please.
- 1 whole (about 4 pounds) chicken
- 10 cups water
- 7 slices of ginger
- 3 star anise
- 2 smashed flat scallions (3-inch pieces and)
- 1 ½ cups of Chinese rose wine
- 1 ½ cups of soy sauce
- 1 1/4 cup of dark soy sauce
- 1 cup of sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons of oil
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- Remove the chicken from the fridge an hour before cooking. When you put it in the pot, it should be at room temperature. Take out the organs and clean the chicken inside and out.
- Take it out of the stockpot. The ideal vessel for this is a tall, narrow pot that just fits the chicken, as it should be completely submerged in the cooking liquid (if you use a larger vessel, you will need to increase all the ingredients proportionally to create more cooking liquid). Add the oil and ginger, and place it over low heat.
- Hold off on eating for about 30 seconds while the ginger caramelizes. Toss in the scallions and continue cooking for another 30 seconds. Simmer and add the wine and star anise.
- Combine the water, sugar, salt, and light and dark soy sauces. Simmer again and continue cooking for another 20 minutes.
- Raise the temperature and bring the liquid to a low boil. Place the chicken breast-side up in the pot, and slowly lower the chicken in using a large roasting fork inserted into the chicken’s cavity. To avoid any voids, ensure that the entire cavity is filled with liquid. At this point, the chicken needs to be submerged completely.
- The temperature of the cooking liquid will decrease after the chicken has been added. Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes. Then, using your large fork, remove the chicken from the water and drain the cavity liquid, which should be cooler than the surrounding water.
- Make sure there are no more air pockets in the chicken’s cavity, and then lower it back into the pot. Chicken that isn’t completely submerged should be basted with cooking liquid at regular intervals.
- It should take about 10 minutes to return the liquid to a slow simmer. For the next quarter of an hour, maintain a low simmer (the liquid temperature should be around 210 degrees F). Take the chicken off the heat, cover the pot, and let it rest for 15 more minutes. To a cutting board, transfer the chicken. Meat thermometers can be used to verify doneness; insert them into the thickest part of the thigh.
- Keep the skin from drying out while the chicken cools by basting it with pan sauce every so often. Pour some of the sauce from the pan over the rice and serve.
- As a side note, this dish can use chicken leg quarters instead of thighs; they are easier to handle and cook in a shorter amount of time. The sauce or cooking liquid left over from cooking the chicken can be frozen and used later (though you may have to re-season the sauce).