Monday, April 20, 2009

Black Soy Sauce Chicken: Easy Treat

Of Chinese origin, soy sauce chicken, gai see yu in Thai, is what my Thai sister-in-law, Nai, makes for garnishing her delicious rice soup. The recipe below is somewhat different, a marinated chicken stir-fry dish which uses a heavier soy sauce, and makes a main course when served with rice. It is also fairly easy and economical.

A thick, sweetened sauce, black soy sauce is a different condiment for special uses in southern China, Thailand, and Indonesia, among other places. Called "thick black," or "bead molasses," or "kecap manis," it is available cheaply at Asian food stores, and keeps indefinitely at room temperature. It gives color to some sauces, golden brown highlights to fried rice, helps with barbecues, and in the current recipe delivers a subtle flavor and bold color to the chicken.

Chicken thigh is preferred for much Asian cooking because of its superior texture, moisture, and flavor for stir fries, curries, and barbecues. Happily, it is also cheaper than breast. If boneless, skinless thigh is not available, get twice the weight in whole thighs, pull off the skin, cut the meat off the bones. Make broth of the skin and bones (skimming off the fat) for soup or other cooking.

Although the preparation of the chicken takes several steps, it can be done long ahead of time, so that the actual cooking is quick. The broccoli can be cut ahead and refrigerated in a closed plastic bag. The ginger and garlic can be minced and stored cold in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap.

The recipe serves six when accompanied by white rice. Beer goes with this, as it does in Asia with most dishes. But for wines, try a medium bodied red, like a Grenache or Garnacha, or a white like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. There are still those, and I am sympathetic if not fully in agreement, that feel Riesling (not too sweet) or Gew├╝rztraminer are the right wines for tangy Asian foods like this one.

Black Soy Sauce Chicken with Broccoli

1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh (or 3 pounds whole chicken thighs)
2 tablespoons black (dark, thick) soy sauce (from Asian groceries)
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound broccoli crowns
2 green onions
4 tablespoons canola oil
Salt as needed

If chicken has skin and bones, remove skin and cut meat off bones. Trim off excess fat, and cut meat into 1/2-inch wide strips the long way. Mix well with soy sauces, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, sugar, cayenne and pepper.

Cut off broccoli stem, leaving 2 inches attached to the crown. Cut crown into long 1/2-inch wide flowerets, each having a piece of stem. Cut green and white parts of onion into 1/2-inch lengths.

Precook broccoli: In wok or large frying pan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil, add 1/4 teaspoon salt plus broccoli. Stir and toss broccoli until it turns dark green, 45-60 seconds. Remove to a bowl, along with the water. Rinse pan.

Bring back to medium-high heat. Add oil, ginger and garlic. Stir and cook very briefly until fragrant but not browning. Add chicken and its marinade. Stir and fry quickly for several minutes, until chicken seems cooked through (cut a piece, or bite into a small piece). The sauce and oil will cling to the chicken.

Add the broccoli and its water back to the pan, stir and fry until hot and bubbling. If dry add just a little water for a small amount of sauce. Stir in the onion briefly. Remove from heat. Taste, and add salt if needed.

Serve in a shallow dish or on a platter. Accompany with unsalted rice.

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