Simmered Chicken

This is a terrific recipe for a basic cooked chicken – you can serve it warm in its sauce or use it cold for Chinese Chicken Salad (speaking of Con-fusion cuisine!) and as a base for some other cold dishes – see Chicken with Cucumbers – as well as a good picnic food. In China, most chicken dishes involve using bone-in chicken (more flavor!) which is hacked into chunks with a large cleaver, resulting in tasty bite-sized pieces that throw most foreigners for a loop: how do you eat around the tiny bone pieces – and some slivers! – and gracefully get rid of the bone when you’re done with the meat? In many places (NOT the white tablecloth kind) you’ll see customers gently spitting the bones onto the table or using chopsticks to place them discreetly on a plate or napkin. If you eat in the street shops, you’ll see folks just spit them on the ground. Have a large cleaver and wish to try this approach? Go for it, although you may work out some frustrations hacking away, your family probably won’t thank you for the cultural experience. We usually remove the chicken from the bone before cooking or, in this case, after cooking, when it can be cut further or pulled into shreds. I do recommend you leave the bones in while braising. I also hope you will try to find pastured chicken, after which you may never go back to a conventional grocery store chicken again! Try your local farmers’ market or visit Local Harvest for a farmer near you who sells these delicious, sustainably raised birds.


  • 1 3.5-lb chicken, cut up (or you can use all breasts, thighs, etc. – should be bone in, but you can leave off the skin if you’re trying to cut down on fat)
  • 2 ea scallions, cut into 2″ lengths
  • 3 slices fresh ginger root
  • 5 stems cilantro (save the leaves for garnish – they’ll just muddy the liquid) or 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

simmering liquid

  • 2 T Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1/4 c light soy sauce
  • 1/4 c dark soy sauce (or use all light if you prefer)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 T sugar, preferably brown or raw cane sugar
  • water or broth to cover


  1. Combine the liquid ingredients except for the water or broth in a pot large enough to hold the chicken.
  2. Add the chicken pieces, scallions, ginger root, and cilantro. Add enough liquid to cover.
  3. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down to a bare simmer – boiling will make the chicken, especially the breasts, quite tough.
  4. Simmer 30 m, then check to see whether the thickest piece is cooked through – the juices should run clear when pierced with a knife. You may need to return it to a simmer for 5-15 more minutes.
  5. If serving warm, remove chicken to a plate and keep warm, reduce the sauce by 1/2 by boiling vigorously over medium-high heat; strain the sauce, pour over the chicken and serve.
  6. If serving cold, set the pot into a sink filled with enough ice and water to come up to the level of the sauce in the pot; cool to room temperature or lower before refrigerating the chicken in the sauce.

reduce, reuse, recycle!

If you don’t need the sauce for the recipe, save it – it makes great flavoring for noodle broth (MUCH healthier than those msg- and sodium-laden packets that come with instant noodles!) or as a flavoring for a quick soup. Freeze it in an ice cube tray, pop the cubes into a container, then dilute with water or broth for either of those uses.

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