Red Cooking in Chinese cuisine, Hong Shao, refers to food (normally pork, chicken or duck) that has been braised in a mixture of soy sauce, Chinese rice wine and whole spices. The soy sauce and long braising imparting the meat with a lovely mahogany hue. It’s a wonderful warming and comforting dish that’s great for colder weather. I like to use thigh fillets for this recipe but you can also use whole chicken thighs or thigh cutlets with the bone in. You can leave the skin on or off, my preference is for the chicken to be skinless – if you can’t have crisp skin I don’t see the point and braising in liquid means the skin goes limp so might as well save the calories. One important ingredient in this dish is the rock sugar which is available at most Asian grocers. You could replace it with normal sugar which will give you the necessary sweetness but it won’t impart the same glossy finish to the sauce. If you’re doing an Asian themed dinner and want to serve a few main courses this would be an ideal dish to include on the menu as it can be prepared in advance and re-heated just before serving. I accompanied the chicken with Szechuan green beans with spicy mince and lots of steamed rice to mop up the delicious braising liquid.
Ingredients – Serves 4 generously or 6 as part of a shared meal
1 kg chicken thigh fillets cut in half or thirds depending on size – you can also use whole chicken thighs/cutlets or any mixture of chicken pieces. You can leave the skin on or off – I prefer the chicken skinless
1 cup shoaxing Chinese rice wine – you can substitute with dry sherry
½ teaspoon salt
4 spring onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces- plus extra, finely sliced, for garnishing
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices (not chopped)
3 tablespoons peanut oil or any other vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
3 whole star anise
2 long red chillies, cut in half – you can leave this out if your cooking for children but cutting the chilli in this way doesn’t impart any heat to the dish
1 x 3 inch cinnamon stick
1 piece dried tangerine peel, optional – available in Asian grocers
⅓ cup dark soy sauce
¼ cup light soy sauce
3 tablespoons roughly chopped Chinese rock sugar or substitute with plain sugar
8-10 fresh shiitake mushrooms cut into thirds
2 teaspoons corn flour
In a bowl, combine chicken, rice wine, salt, spring onions, and ginger. Leave to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving chicken, spring onions, and ginger.
Heat a wok or a deep sided fry pan over high heat. Swirl in the oil and add garlic, star anise, chillies, cinnamon, and tangerine peel and cook for 1 minute. Add reserved chicken, spring onions, and ginger and cook until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add soy sauces and cook for another couple of minutes. Add 1½ cups water and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add sugar and shiitake mushrooms, stir well and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes, by which time the chicken will be cooked through and tender.
Stir together the corn flour with 1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl. Raise heat to high and pour in the corn flour mixture while stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes, if you still feel there is too much liquid just cook uncovered at a high simmer for a little longer. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with finely chopped spring onions and serve with steamed rice.