Saturday, February 20, 2010

Onna's Cold Ginger Chicken

Chicken on the left simmered for 45 min. (well-done) Chicken on the right, 30 min. (pinkish and a bit underdone, the way most Chinese eat it)

My friend, Elsie, hosted a Chinese New Year's gathering last week which included a demo of four Chinese dishes by her housekeeper/cook Onna Liang. Onna is from Guandong with solid cooking cred. Her son cooks for and owns Aloha Barbecue on Kapahulu Ave. and her husband works at a restaurant as well. We were fascinated as we watched her whip up Cold Ginger Chicken, Eggplant and Tofu in Black Bean Sauce, Chao'd Pumpkin and Fried Rice for 20 people in under 2 hours.

The Cold Ginger Chicken is an ubiquitous dish on Chinese restaurant menus but Onna's was truly outstanding. I always knew that the restaurants must either have access to exceptional ingredients (super tender, fresh chicken from a farm?) or specialized techniques to make the chicken so meltingly tender and with so much flavor. Turns out it's the latter.

Use the HECO recipe(from the Hawaiian Electric Company's website) below but add these tips.

This is what we learned from Onna:
1.) Simmer the chicken (instead of turning off the heat) in 1/4 c. of Hawaiian salt, and a stockpot 2/3 full of water for 45 min. This Hot Brine plumps the chicken and flavors it perfectly.
2.) Whiz the ingredients in a Cuisinart until it is a fine puree. I'd always chopped it up fine but the puree is much better. Optional: Im sai, Chinese parsley and sesame seed oil for the sauce.
3.) Pour 1/4 c. of oil in a saucepan and heat the sauce on Med., stirring constantly for 2 min. before serving.
The chicken was delicious warm with the hot sauce.

These tips together produced the best Ginger Chicken I'd ever had from a home kitchen. It was indistinguishable from chicken from a good Chinese restaurant. I was very pleased at my first try at duplicating Onna's dish. However, still tinkering with the amount of Hawaiian salt because while I do want the advantages of what I call a Hot Brine, I also want a stock leftover that is not rendered inedible by the salt.

Cold Ginger Chicken
Demonstrated by: 2002 2nd Princess Sherri Seto
1 whole (3 to 5 lb) chicken fryer, Water, 1 cup cubed ginger root, 4 to 5 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths, 3/4 cup salad oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon white pepper
Clean and trim excess fat from chicken. Fill a large stockpot 1/2 full of water; bring water to a boil. Add chicken and additional water, if necessary, to completely cover the chicken. Cover and bring water to a boil again. Turn off heat and let stand for 1 hour. Remove chicken from pot and drain. Cover chicken and refrigerate until chilled. Cut chicken into 2 x 1-inch pieces; place in serving dish. Combine ginger and green onions in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add oil, salt, and pepper; chill. To serve, pour ginger mixture over chicken or serve ginger mixture in a separate bowl. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Simple Soothing Chicken Soup

Sometimes nothing is more satisfying than a bowl of homemade, from scratch soup. Last week I was down with the flu and my stomach still was not 100% up to par. I'd been given gai choy (mustard cabbage) that had been picked from my friend, Elsie's, garden just hours before. The gift of gai choy immediately made me think of local oxtail soup with its rich steaming broth, the mustard cabbage and the dried peanuts. But, too rich. So my fall back plan turned out perfect- a simple chicken soup with gai choy. Locavore fare. And as a bonus, Science has proven Mother right. Chicken soup has antibiotic qualities.

I think, I know, what elevated this soup was using Edna Lewis' technique of gently coddling the chicken, coaxing the juices out. Her technique is in her book "In Pursuit of Flavor" It's faster, simpler and way more flavorful than boiling chicken for hours.

This is how I did it and I included brands because I believe they make a difference. Mostly I've been cooking with a dry Sherry but when I tried making a chao'd dish with whiskey in the marinade I instantly knew that that was the distinctive ingredient that my Mom and Aunties used. I made this Soup a bit more Asian than Edna's original version, although I used her technique. If you read the recipe through once you will see it is quite simple and endlessly adaptable to whatever soup vegetable is available. On the second try you won't even need to reread the recipe.

Simple Soothing Chicken Soup with Gai Choy

Thaw 2 pounds of chicken thighs in water with 1/4 c. of Hawaiian salt. If using fresh chicken, use the same water-salt mixture (brine) and leave in the fridge for 1/2 hour. Drain and rinse chicken. Discard water-salt mixture. Marinate the chicken in 1/4 c. Kikkoman or Yamasa shoyu and 2 T. of Seagram's 7 whiskey for at least 1/2 hour. Pat the chicken dry but reserve the marinating liquids.

Brown the chicken and 2 slices, pounded, of ginger in a soup pot with 2 T. of oil. Stir briskly with a wooden spoon for 5 min. on Med-High. Turn down to a high simmer and cover pot. Let it simmer for 15 min. Check to see if the juices from the chicken have started to come halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces. If not, turn the heat up a notch. Add 2 c. of water and the marinating liquids. Let this simmer for another 15-20 min. Check to see if the chicken if fully cooked, if not, simmer for another couple of minutes. Remove the chicken and debone. Chop the chicken into large 2" pieces.

At this point, you can make the Soup right away or you can keep the stock and chicken in separate plastic containers in the fridge or freeze them so that you have both deboned chicken and stock on hand. The stock will be so concentrated that you may want to add more water when you use it.

To make the Soup, add the deboned chicken back into the stock and heat. Chop the gai choy into 1" widths. Add the green stalks first, let that cook for 1 min., add the leaves. Let that cook for another minute and the soup is ready to savor.

You can use most any type of soup vegetables, instead of or in addition to the gai choy-bok choy, wong bok, watercress, sauteed carrots or mushrooms.



Chinese New Year falls on Valentine's Day this year. There will be a number of events revolving around Chinese food that I'll be blogging on this month. Gung Hee Fat Choy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mahalo, Wanda!

My buddy, Wanda Adams', food blog, sponsored by the Honolulu Advertiser, is called My Island Plate. Her posting today, Feb. 1, is all about becoming a better baker. She graciously included some of my favorite baking/freezing tips and a number from my friend, Tina Ho Wing. Tina is a culinary arts instructor at Glendale High School in California. Thank you, too, Tina, for generously sharing all your top secret tips with me all these years!

Last week, Wanda innocently asked me "What's up?" I went into a big discussion about my passion, baking, because of the Tea we'd recently had. There's lots of food events on the horizon. I recently baked a mess of brownies for a fundraiser for my Kalamas' church group from Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay. Punahou Carnival is this weekend and bonus! both Chinese New Year's (two banquets) and Valentine's are on the same day this year, Feb. 14. Also, two Chinese New Year's food demos are in the works. Our talk turned from events to baking technique and tips. Hence, the blog.

I really appreciated that Wanda gave me a nod for my baking and freezing tips and mentioned this blog. Those are the tips that have greatly assisted me in my baking.

Photos above
On the left are Brownies I decorated for the fundraiser with a chocolate glaze.
On the right is the latest iteration of my "Heart to Heart" dessert. I described it in the previous blog. It has a brownie base, liliko'i curd, pound cake heart, more curd, whipped cream and sprinkles.

My Island Plate My Island Plate blog, ...
Musings, tips, recipes and ideas from Advertiser food editor Wanda Adams, and a chance to share your own
Another way: To find Wanda's blog, go to the Hnl. Advertiser website. Hit the Forum/Blogs icon at the top. It will take you to the Lifestyles blogs and hers, My Island Plate.