International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Zuiji

Zuiji (Chinese drunken chicken)

(Chinese drunken chicken)

Image Creative Commons by fchungcw

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Chinese drunken chicken, or zuiji (醉雞), is a great dish from China's eastern coastal region that makes a delicious addition to any buffet table or party spread. The dish is simple to make. Just poach chicken pieces and then drown them in a boozy rice wine marinade. Zuiji is particularly popular in the summer months, as it is most often served cold.

4 to 6 servings, or about 8 to 10 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • Whole chicken, cut into pieces -- 2 1/2 to 3-pounds
  • Scallions, roughly chopped -- 3
  • Gingerroot -- 3 slices
  • Salt -- 1 tablespoon
  • Water -- to cover
  • Rice wine or dry sherry -- 2 cups
  • Sugar -- 2 tablespoons

Method

  1. Add the chicken, scallions, ginger and salt to a large pot and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high flame, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer slowly for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Discard the scallions and ginger and bring the broth back to a boil. Continue to boil until the volume of the broth is reduced by about half. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Mix 2 cups of the concentrated broth with the rice wine or sherry and sugar. (Save the remaining broth for soup.) Adjust seasoning as needed with salt. Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade (it may have gelled at this point; that's good) and use a heavy cleaver or knife to cut them into bite-sized pieces. Arrange the pieces neatly on a plate and serve. The marinade can be served either cold and gelled or it can be lightly heated until it melts and served in small bowls as a dipping sauce.

Zuiji (Drunken Chicken) Variations

  • Wine for Drunken Chicken: The classic wine for making Chinese drunken chicken is a fermented rice wine from the city of Shaoxing in coastal Zhejiang province. Shaoxing rice wine is one of the most famous of the so-called yellow wines (huangjiu) of China, which range in color from clear to yellow to ruddy red. A suitable substitute for Chinese yellow wine would be a nice dry sherry.
  • Steaming the Chicken: Instead of poaching the chicken, many Chinese cooks steam it instead. Place the chicken pieces in a bamboo steamer and top with the scallions, ginger and a big pinch of salt. Place the steamer over simmering water in a wok or large pot and steam for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Set the chicken aside to cool, discard the scallions and ginger, and use the steaming liquid for the marinade. No need to reduce it down through boiling.
  • Chicken: For especially moist and juicy drunken chicken, use all dark meat. Chicken breast can sometimes be dry. Or try using all chicken wings for tasty finger food at a party or buffet. Talented cooks can debone a whole chicken and tie it galantine-style before poaching to make an especially elegant final presentation.
  • Goji Berries, or Wolfberries: Some Chinese cooks add a few goji berries, also known as wolfberries, to the marinade in the belief that they impart a health benefit. The flavor if the dish is generally unaffected.

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