Soy Chicken

I’m guilty of something horrible when it comes to my pantry. Like, really horrible. I tend to buy packets and packets of spices, dried herbs, mixes, powdered whatevers and very often end up forgetting about them.

I know, right? It’s such a crime! I’ve had to throw out good spice mixes, homemade blends even, because them weevils got in. Weevils get to EVERYTHING around here. It’s humid and really really hot in the afternoons. Everything heats up. So when I went to look at some of my spices recently, I had to swallow in my horror and throw practically half my pantry out. It had to be done.

Thankfully, my Chinese cinnamon barks, cloves and star anise were still okay. Yes, I forgot about them for almost 1/2 a year and surprisingly, they still looked decent. While you don’t really need much in dishes, it made me feel good using at least a tiny bit of my stash. One star anise down, another 20 more to go. Oh boy…

I have a short thingy to say about Chinese cinnamon though. Those aren’t real cinnamon. I’ve mentioned it briefly here but I thought I’d elaborate a little. I can’t promise I won’t repeat again because I’m a scatter-brain and will forget that I’ve already mentioned it before. Now onto the topic. I learnt this 2 years ago when hubs was studying the various spices on Old Testament Jewish offerings. We discovered that real cinnamon barks are brittle and crushes down easily. I used that for my cinnamon syrup. It’s fragrance is more floral and somewhat lighter. However real cinnamon barks are really hard to find here. I got mine from my dad who brought some back after his visit to Indonesia.

The so-called cinnamon barks we get at supermarkets and stores here are very thick, woody ones that are impossible to break without a mallet or chainsaw. It turns out that these are actually called Chinese cassia or Chinese cinnamon. I find that they have a deeper, much more herbal fragrance compared to true cinnamon. I use Chinese cinnamon in savoury cooking, reserving the less common, and thus more precious, true cinnamon for infusions.

And that leads us to this recipe. Seemingly unrelated? Hardly, because Chinese cinnamon, cloves and star anise will provide a good fragrance to my soy chicken! I tell you, the flavours in this dish packs a punch.

For this easy braised chicken, we need Chicken Drumsticks, Shitake Mushrooms (dried/fresh), Garlic, Star Anise, Cloves, Chinese Cinnamon, Kecap Manis, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar & Water.
Soy Chicken 1

First thing I like to do while reconstituting my dried shitake is to make the sauce. Equal parts soy and kecap manis and double the sugar. A dash of water to thin it out to make the braising liquid and we’re there! I tell you, this will get reduced down into a treacly syrupy glaze. It’ll be just so good.
Soy Chicken 2

As with most of my chicken dishes, these drumsticks have to be browned. Even if slightly, it provides a lot of extra free flavour to the braise. Try not to skip it whenever possible.
Soy Chicken 3

The spices and garlic get some toasting on the hot pan. And once the fragrance start wafting up, you know you can move to the next step.
Soy Chicken 4

Sauce and more sauce!
Soy Chicken 5

Let it start simmering.
Soy Chicken 6

The chicken and mushrooms will be placed into the braising liquid carefully. I let the braise go for about 25 minutes, turning the chicken once halfway through to get even colour.
Soy Chicken 7

When the chicken is nice and tender, I like to remove them and crank up the heat. Caramelization = sticky treacly glaze. Always a nice touch.Soy Chicken 9

Yes there is quite a bit of sauce still. You can reduce it further but I love sauce with rice and this just what I needed.Soy Chicken 10

Sweet & savoury. Perfect balance. Perfect flavours.Soy Chicken 11

Are there any items in your own pantry that you’ve forgotten about? I’d love to hear about what you have 🙂

xoxoxo, Jayne

“For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” (2 Corinthians 2:15)

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Soy Chicken
serves 3-5


5 Chicken Drumsticks
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
15 fresh/dried Shitake Mushrooms, stalks trimmed (reconstitute if dried)
6 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 stick Chinese Cinnamon
3 Cloves
1 Star Anise
1 tbsp Kecap Manis
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Water

Salt, if required – to taste

  1. In a bowl, mix kecap manis, soy sauce, brown sugar & water to form a sauce. Set aside.
  2. Brown chicken pieces in a HOT wok or deep pan, about 1 minute each side. Remove & set aside.
  3. If there is too much oil, remove some, leaving about 1 tbsp behind. On MED HIGH, toast Chinese cinnamon, cloves, star anise and garlic for about 1 minute until it becomes fragrant.
  4. Pour in sauce mixture and bring to a boil.
  5. Carefully put in browned chicken drumsticks & mushrooms. Braising sauce should come at least halfway up the ingredients in the pan.
  6. Once boiling, cover pan and reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes, turning the drumsticks once midway to ensure even colouring.
  7. When chicken is fully cooked and tender, remove from braising liquid. Turn heat up to HIGH to a rapid boil to reduce the liquid. I left mine on for bout 4-5 minutes. Careful to ensure sauce doesn’t burn due to high sugar content.
  8. When sauce is thickened and reduced to your preference, pour over chicken drumsticks and serve with rice and a simple vegetable side.


  1. I used to commit the same “crime” of buying spices and forgetting about them. 😛 So, I made a commitment to myself not to buy the packaged ones….and keep inventories low and fresh. 🙂 These soy chickens look delicious. 🙂 Gotta love those flavors.

    • I know! And it makes me grit my teeth everytime I have to throw something away. Just yesterday I had to discard 1/2 a bag of oatmeal (not a spice, I know) because I forgot about it for a few months and the weevils got to it. Sigh. Now I know I’d better not buy large bags because even though they are cheaper, if I end up having to discard them, I may as well get smaller bags that I know I can finish. More economical in the long run, right? Thanks for the compliment. It was a pretty tasty dinner!

  2. I can’t stand weevils! They tend to live in pantry related items and they chew through anything with a paper wrappings like flour, rice and pasta. It’s best to store them in plastic bags as weevils can’t chew through them. I digress….

    Your chicken looks delicious. I love the flavor combinations you have. Will be fantastic with some rice.

    • Thanks Anne :-). I’m personally a noodle person but this is one dish I can only have with rice. Also weevils! I’m learning to keep them at bay. They just get into EVERYTHING! I was wold to put a dried chilli into my rice bucket. Have to try that. Maybe some lemongrass in and around my spice drawer. I’ll try anything.


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