I was making a classic take on a version of Chinese three-cup chicken. I was in a duck camp, and wanted to braise the dark quarters from birds we had shot and serve them with rice. I had all the stuff I needed except some sweeteners, so I changed some things up and added a can of root beer, skipped the sesame oil and started something new. In my head I thought the botanical nature of the soda fit really well with the traditional 5 spice flavors, and since I make Dr. Pepper glazed chicken and Coca Cola roasted fresh ham, I was pretty confident it would work out. Well, it was stellar.
I tweaked this recipe a bunch, and made it even better. So here you go.…
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Serve it with a really good short grain rice, I like koshihikari, as do most Japanese. It’s been Japan’s most popular for a long time. Learn more about the cultivar and its history here. When cooked properly, it is glorious and the grains separate beautifully while retaining enough starchy clumping.
And yes, I am serving a Chinese dish with Japanese rice … and I uses Japanese soy sauce, too, because that’s what I had on hand when I made the dish … and I used sake instead of Shaoxing. I typically use Shaoxing in my Chinese recipes, but Japanese rice wine is a fine substitute. I am not much of a stickler for these things, although I try to keep like with like. I get all of my pantry ingredients on https://themalamarket.com\or on Amazon. I buy a lot of Japanese products on https://gohanmarket.com… I am lucky; where I live we have some superb Asian markets for fresh produce and other ingredients.
Now, there are really average producers of koshihikari rice. And there are some that are so super premium I rarely use them. This is the brand I use regularly . It’s grown in Uonuma. Tokubetsu refers to the level of polish (not less than 60 percent) and the brand is the one I always bought on Amazon for years never thinking of supply chain issues. I bought four of these very large bags so long ago that I can’t find them in my archive on the website. Suffice to say I will buying and investigating some other premium koshihikari from Gohan’s website soon, but if you see this one, grab it. It is superb. I’m running out!
A couple of other notes:
The toasted rapeseed (canola) oil is one of many secrets to great Chinese cooking, it imparts a delicate light charred flavor to any dish and is a sturdy oil for stir-frying, I get mine from Ma La Market, see link above.
I use tsin tsin chiles or others I get from Ma La Market. Dried arbols are a great substitute and I have never been to a supermarket that doesn’t carry them. Leaving chiles whole gives the dish warmth. Crushing them up makes it spicy.
I get my five-year old aged black vinegar at Ma La Market too.
Don’t skim the oil/fat from the pan after browning the bird. During all the simmering you want it to emulsify into the sauce. It’s superb when you serve that over the rice.
You will notice in the pictures of the finished dish some blackness on the rice: that’s crushed black sesame seeds and salt, a traditional Japanese rice condiment called Goma Shio , and I love it.
Sticky Spicy Glazed Chicken with Root Beer
6-8 pieces of fresh natural chicken, washed and well dried
3 Tablespoons of toasted rapeseed oil
Handful of chopped scallions, 2 inches long
A few tablespoons of minced scallions … reserved for garnish
A few handfuls of cubed daikon radish, about golfball sized
3 or 4 carrots chopped in 2-inch lengths on the bias
8 shallots, trimmed and peeled
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons toasted and crushed Sichuan peppercorns
Several whole dried chiles
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise buds
One piece of ginger, twice the size of your thumb, peeled, cut into thin slices.
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
½ cup soy sauce, get a good one, all natural and aged
1 can of root beer
1/3 cup Shaoxing or sake
½ cup mirin
3 Tablespoons Chinese aged black vinegar
Get a large pan and brown chicken pieces on both sides in the toasted rapeseed oil.
Add the vegetables to the pan. PIC 4 HERE
Add the liquids and seasonings.
Bring to a simmer and lower heat to maintain a strong simmer/low boil.
Cook for 25 minutes.
Turn chicken pieces and shuffle vegetables around
Cook for 25 minutes more, turning heat down to a strong simmer.
Place chicken skin-side up on top of the vegetables.
Cook for 10-12 minutes or so more until sauce is glazy — don’t burn your sauce!
Turn chicken in the glazy sauce, platter it all up and serve family style or serve directly into bowls as I did the other day.
Let me know what you think of this recipe… Enjoy this week.
All the best,