Making your own soya sauce chicken may seem daunting, but it can be satisfying once you get the basics right
After taking part in a test taste of soya sauce chickens from 10 eateries, I wanted to prove a home cook can make soya sauce chicken that tastes better than store-bought ones .
Soya sauce chicken, as I understand it, should be fragrant with the aroma of soya beans. The meat should also be perfumed with spices and herbs.
For this recipe, I used four large kampung chicken legs - $2.50 each from the wet market - instead of a whole chicken, as chicken parts are easier to manage .
I didn't use a freakishly expensive soya sauce, just whatever I had lying around, which happened to be Tiger Brand Special Grade Light Soya Sauce and Tiger Brand Special Grade Dark Soya Sauce.
The lengthy list of ingredients may seem daunting at first, but I am convinced even a beginner cook will be able to whip up decent soya sauce chicken.
The beauty of braising is that you don't have to deal with a greasy kitchen after cooking. Making a braise is like playing jazz. Improvisation makes it fun, once you get the basics right.
I used red yeast rice to impart a natural reddish hue to the braising sauce, but this is optional if you do not have it on hand.
I also used Chinese rose wine and maltose to glaze the chicken skin after cooking, again an optional step. It is a professional technique, I learnt, used by soya sauce chicken sellers who want to keep their fowl glistening under tungsten lights.
This may appeal to those who love posting photos of their home-cooked fare on social media.
At home, you can tailor the braise to suit your taste and dietary needs. It is undeniably tedious to make the braising sauce for the first time. But get it right and you can freeze the excess for subsequent use, like braising chicken wings and other meats.
To store the braising sauce, first filter it using a muslin cloth to get rid of any residue. Allow it to cool completely before placing it in the freezer.
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SOYA SAUCE CHICKEN NOODLES
- 3 star anise
- 4 black cardamom
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 3 cardamom pods
- 5 bay leaves
- 1½ tsp fennel seeds 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 15 cloves
- 1½ Tbs red yeast rice (optional)
- 17g garlic cloves (with skins), lightly smashed
- 3 slices of gan cao (licorice root, 6g)
- 5 red dates (7g)
- 50g yu zhu (Solomon's seal) 40g dang shen (codonopsis root)
- 25g huai shan (Chinese wild yam)
- 10g dried Mandarin orange peel
- 6g chuan xiong (Chinese lovage root)
- 40g galangal, smashed
- 50g old ginger, smashed
- 5 pandan leaves (22g)
- 35g spring onion
- 30g fresh coriander
- 3.5 litres of water
- 350ml light soya sauce
- 100ml dark soya sauce
- 30g salt
- 200g lump sugar
- 4 chicken legs (969g)
- 1.5 litres of water (for blanching)
- 1 Tbs maltose
- 1 Tbs Chinese rose wine
INGREDIENTS FOR GRAVY
- 250ml braising sauce
- 60ml water
- 1 Tbs cornflour
- 30ml water (for mixing with the cornflour)
INGREDIENTS FOR VEGETABLES
- 1 litre of water
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp cooking oil 200g xiao bai cai (quarter each bunch lengthwise)
INGREDIENTS FOR NOODLES
- 1.5 litres of water
- 8 bundles of dried egg noodles (360g)
- 4 tsp sesame oil
You will need a soup bag for the ingredients of the braising sauce.
PART 1: BRAISING THE CHICKEN
1. Heat a frying pan. Over low heat, add the star anise, black cardamom, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cardamom, bay leaves, fennel seeds, Sichuan peppercorns and cloves. Dry fry for 3 minutes and turn off the heat.
2. Transfer the toasted spices into a soup bag.
3. Add the red yeast rice, gan cao, red dates, yu zhu, dang shen, huai shan, dried Mandarin orange peel, chuan xiong and garlic cloves. Tie up the bag.
4. Bring 3.5 litres of water to a boil in a sturdy pot. Add the soup bag, galangal and ginger.
5. Add the light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, lump sugar and salt.
6. Add the spring onion and coriander.
7. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for one hour and 30 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, blanch the chicken legs briefly and plunge them into ice water for 3 minutes.
9. Remove the chicken legs from the ice water and place into a colander to drip dry. Set aside.
10. Remove the lid of the pot for the simmering braising sauce. Remove and discard the spring onion and coriander. Take out the soup bag and set it aside.
11. Gently place the chicken legs, one by one, into the braising sauce, skin side down. Place the soup bag on top of the chicken legs. Allow the braising sauce to reach a simmering boil. Cover and turn off the heat. Allow the chicken legs to cook in the residual heat for 55 minutes.
12. Use a shallow sieve to remove the chicken legs from the braising pot. This is to avoid bruising or tearing the chicken skin.
13. Place the chicken legs, skin side up, on a plate.
14. Put on plastic gloves. For each chicken leg, dip your fingers in the Chinese rose wine and gently smear it all over the skin. As you are doing this, gently rub away any braising residue on the skin.
15. Next, take about half a teaspoonful of maltose and smear this, as evenly as possible, over the chicken leg. Set aside the chicken legs.
PART 2: MAKING THE GRAVY
1. Bring 250ml of the braising sauce to a simmering boil.
2. Add 60ml of water.
3. Dissolve the cornflour in 30ml of water.
4. Gradually stir the cornflour mixture into the braising sauce.
5. Simmer for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and keep covered. Set aside.
PART 3: BLANCHING THE VEGETABLES
1. Bring 1 litre of water to a boil.
2. Add the salt and cooking oil.
3. Blanch the xiao bai cai for 45 seconds. Turn off the heat and remove the vegetables from the pot.
4. Set aside.
PART 4: COOKING THE NOODLES
1. Bring 1.5 litres of water to a boil.
2. Cook two bundles of the dried noodles at a time. Place them in a noodle sieve. Boil the noodles for 2 minutes, using a pair of bamboo chopsticks to loosen the noodles as they are cooking.
3. Shake the noodle sieve to remove the excess water.
4. For each plate, add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
5. Transfer the noodles from the sieve to the plate and use a pair of chopsticks to toss the noodles briefly. Set aside.
PART 5: ASSEMBLY
1. Arrange the vegetables on each plate of noodles.
2. Chop each chicken leg into six pieces. Place the chicken on top of the noodles.
3. Drizzle three tablespoons of gravy over the noodles.
4. Serve immediately.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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