2 weeks ago, I went back to my parent’s place to spend the whole day there with my mom. She invited the whole jingbang from her side (well, not that many people really– about 6 people; hence adding us would make it up to about 10) and decided to cook up some simple dishes. Before I go any further though, can I say how much I love family gatherings at home where we all get to eat together, chat over the meal and just really spend time together?
Back to the food. 😀 So Mom decided she wanted to make her own chicken rice extravaganza. And of course, in I come with “helpful” suggestions and advice. Because she was going to steam TWO fat chickens (yes, 2!) we had to figure out how to best ensure that they would be nice and flavourful. Knowing steamed food, the chickens had to be well salted, properly marinated and such. So I suggested brining! Boy was I glad I did. I’ve only ever done dry brining but this experiment has convinced me to start brining poultry, especially if I’m going to cook a whole bird.
The night before the dinner, Mom brined them 2 birds in a very salty and spiced solution that consisted of:
Look at the leftover spices! We didn’t want to waste them so Mom just chucked them into the dish we’d be using to steam the chicken on. That included fatty bits and grody parts.
Grody parts = flavour; in the Chinese dictionary.
The birds were left to come up to room temperature before steaming since they were really cold and fresh out of the refrigerator.
When we were ready, we got the water boiling before placing the chickens into the steamer. I think about 35 minutes in, we had to turn the birds around as the bottom parts weren’t fully cooked. It was really crammed in there. I figure if you were only going to steam one, you wouldn’t need to turn it over.
After cooling down a bit, Mom chopped them into bite-sized pieces. Isn’t that an ingenious way? She used a pestle to knock down her knife for a clean cut. Probably not advisable if you’re clumsy. Like me.
There, a plateful of perfectly cooked, tender, flavourful chicken pieces. We didn’t even have to make a special sauce because the meat was perfectly salted and the brine tenderised the meat wonderfully.
By the way, you see the nice broth/juices in the dish under the steaming chicken a couple of pictures above? Do not, I repeat, DO NOT pour that away. You can make a robust gravy for the chicken if you so prefer. I, however, reserved it for my rice which we served alongside this chicken and other side dishes. Stay tuned for the rice recipe and other stuff we made on that day.
I can’t wait to share more 🙂
“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.” (John 14:11)
recipe for 1 chicken
1 stick Cinnamon
2 Star Anise
5 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 knobs Ginger, about 1 inch each, peeled
1 tbsp Black Peppercorn
2 Bay Leaves
1 cup coarse Salt
enough water to cover chicken
Extra salt, if needed
1 whole Chicken (about 500gms or appx 1.1 pound), cleaned thoroughly
- Prepare a container that is large enough to fit your chicken entirely with at least 2 inches more to ensure brine can me contained well.
- Place brine spices into container, except salt, and place chicken in.
- Pour in enough water to cover chicken and sprinkle salt over**.
- Refrigerate until about 2-3 hours before the dish needs to be served. For best results, let the chicken brine for at least 6 hours or better, overnight (up to two days).
- When ready to be steamed, prepare steaming rack and get the water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, remove chicken from brine. Pour away salty water but reserve leftover spices and place into the dish that will be used to steam the chicken in.
- Give the chicken a wash and pat dry.
- Place chicken on top of spices and steam for about 30-40 minutes. Start checking at 25 minutes by poking a chopstick into the meatiest part of the thighs. If the juices that run out is still pink, give it another 5 minutes then check again. If the juices run clear, it’s done!
- Remove chicken from steaming dish and let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving or chopping. Garnish with spring onions and cilantro, if desired.
- Reserve juices for cooking rice or gravy.
** Some people prefer to boil the brine, cool it, then pour it over the chicken. I’d recommend that but when there is lack of time, it really doesn’t matter. The salt will dissolve on it’s own. Just give it a stir once or twice during the brining process and it’ll be ok.