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May 1, 2013 06:05 PM

Chinese Steamed Chicken - recipe please

Do you have a recipe for Chinese Steamed Chicken? I have made it several times following recipes on the web. By sheer luck, it turned out great the first time, but when I tried it again it was overcooked. I think that for Steamed Chicken the timing may be everything. Any tips on timing when you cook a "regular" chicken versus when you cook a pasture raised chicken? Thanks!

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  1. Gentle gentle simmer. Don't boil the water when you steam.

    17 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      That's very interesting. I will try a gentle gentle simmer!

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Simmer? My mom always steamed it over slightly boliing water. Along this idea, although I don't know what she put inside.

        I'd defer to you before her, as cooking technique goes, though, not that I'd tell her.

        1. re: chowser

          What exactly is the difference between a gentle simmer and slightly boiling water?

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Sorry, I was thinking you meant chicken in the water, like poaching. Morning brain.

            1. re: chowser

              Bite-sized chicken pieces on a plate and put it in a wok or pot with cold water and use high heat to bring the water to boil. Use medium heat to steam for another 8-15 mins depends on the size of your chicken pieces. You can add 1-2 tsp of water when you marinate the chicken.
              I once read that if you use a free range "yellow oil" chicken then you have to steam it for 45 mins so it doesn't get chewy.

              1. re: smfan

                Thanks, smfan. Your description is helpful and leads me to ask a couple more questions. Is there a reason why the chicken pieces are put on a plate? What I'm wondering is why is the chicken put on a plate and then onto a steaming insert inside a wok OR on a plate that's then put into a steamer basket inside a pot ? Wouldn't it be easier to just put the chicken pieces directly onto the wok's steamer insert or into the pot's steamer basket? Is it done the way your describe so that the juices from the chicken are collected by the plate? Is it to keep the chicken somewhat insulated from the direct steam and thus to possibly cook it more gently as has been suggested above? Thanks for your thoughts!

                1. re: monamifood

                  The juice collected in the plate is very tasty over rice. If you put the chicken directly onto a insert, it may get too dry. And it is always easier to wash a plate than a insert or steamer basket.

                2. re: smfan

                  Hi Smfan, I like the idea of cooking pieces of chicken on a plate. It is sure to be faster and the pieces will more likely all reach safe temperature (165 degrees F) at the same time. I bought a few whole free range chickens at Whole Foods yesterday (when they were on sale) and I just called to ask if I could bring them back to have them chopped up and to my surprise they said I could! So I plan to do that and try your recipe! I'll report back here on the timing. Meanwhile, I found this recipe, - if anyone is interested. Thanks again!

                  1. re: monamifood

                    Looked at her recipe. I would skip the sichuan peppercorn and chilli oil so you can appreciate the fragrant and taste of the shiitake mushroom. If you have corn starch, add a Tbsp and 1-2 tbsp of water. You don't want to see lumps of corn starch. It gives the chicken a "silky" texture. If you like sesame oil and soy sauce, you can add 1/2 tsp. Black fungus or chinese dried sausages also go well with shiitake mushroom steamed chicken.

                    1. re: monamifood

                      Now that you are using Free Range, you will have to experiment with the timing. I will eat one piece at 10mins, 20mins, 30mins, and 40mins steaming. Stop steaming when you like the texture. Don't jam your plate with chicken.

                      1. re: smfan

                        Hi Smfan, I made a very simple version of steamed chicken pieces last night. I took your advice and only put on the plate (actually it was a square pyrex casserole dish) one layer of chicken pieces.

                        I had salted my free-range chicken with Kosher salt (that seems to work better than regular salt that I used earlier) and had let the salted chicken sit in refrigerator for about 8 hours before cooking. It turned out great! Chicken was moist and tender and the juices in the plate when added to a little chicken stock I had around, made a great soup!

                        Cooking took 20 minutes (from the time the water was boiling) for the chicken to reach internal temperature of 165 -170 F. I kept the water at a gentle boil (so it didn't boil up and hit the bottom of the dish).

                        BTW, when the chicken was cooked (165 degrees F), there were still places that when I poked with the thermometer, the juices that ran out were pink. I know that's OK since the temperature was 165 or above, but it was not a very comfortable feeling. And I have noticed this issue with free range chickens and not so much with regular chickens.

                        And one more thing. I had to improvise to elevate the pyrex plate in my 14-inch wok. I used a small metal bowl turned upside down and set the pyrex dish on it.

                        For a sturdier stand, I am planning to buy one of these:

                        1. re: monamifood

                          That will work or you can use a pair of chopsticks.

                          1. re: smfan

                            Thanks, smfan, Thanks for the chopsticks idea. I tried the chopsticks in my wok, but it didn't work that well. Maybe I need matched pairs of the proper length. I'll give chopsticks another try when I get some more.
                            With this chopsticks idea in mind, I found this bamboo steaming rack as part of a set:
                   . By chance, do you know anywhere where I might order just the bamboo steaming rack as shown at this link?

                            1. re: monamifood

                              I used a collapsable bamboo steaming rack ages ago in Hong Kong. It worked well. I will try Chinatown.

                              1. re: smfan

                                Thanks for all your help with all my queations!!

              2. re: chowser

                Thanks, Chowser! I just watched this video. It showed her putting the chicken on a plate/bowl and then steaming it for 25 minutes. And she let it sit in the steamer for another 25 minutes before lifting the lid. I never let my chicken sit in steamer after the 25 minute active steaming. I think that is one of the keys to what I was doing wrong. Also, I notice in this video the breast side is closest to the steaming water. That makes sense and I'll be sure to try it that way.

              3. re: ipsedixit

                Very good advice. It is hard to mess up steamed chicken. It is better a few hours later or next day when it cools. Eat at room temperature with a dipping sauce. I like a dip sauce based on ginger juice and Kikkoman soy sauce

                Chopping it up with a cleaver to make Chinese style small pieces is also cool

              4. If you're talking about bok jit gai, it's easy. Take a chicken that's about 3.5 lbs and put it into a pot into which it just fits completely (for my cookware, that means my 3-qt saucepan). Put the chicken in the pot, and completely cover it with water. Remove the chicken, leaving all the water in the pot. Add a whole green onion, a chunk of ginger (crush it a bit first), and a heavy pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Carefully lower the chicken into the boiling water, making sure the water covers the chicken completely. When the water returns to a boil, cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let the chicken steep for one hour, no peeking. Remove the chicken from the pot, and chop it up into bite-sized pieces. Serve with plum sauce or fried salt.

                The 'no peeking' thing is the hardest but most important thing, because you don't want to lose any heat.

                16 Replies
                1. re: ricepad

                  Thanks, ricepad. I am also very interested in what you describe as it would be so simple to make and from what I've read can be very delicious and moist, of course. However, I am concerned about food safety because it's hard , I would think, to be sure the chicken is kept hot enough for long enough to not be in the danger zone. This is something I would like to know more about. If I could be convinced it is safe. I'd try this in a minute! Ming Tsai has a recipe for poached chicken like you describe and it's in his book Simply Ming, but even then I am a bit worried about trying it.

                  To be more specific, I'm concerned about the temperature issue - as mentioned on the Culinary Cook website -
                  where it says" Proper cooling is a must if you intend to use cooked food at a later date. Always be vigilant. The Temperature Danger Zone is important to understand. As your food is cooling, it reaches the zone between 60C (140F) and 4C (40F). This is called the Danger Zone, because it is the prime temperature for bacteria to grow within in. Food must not be kept at this temperature for long, and efforts must be made to get it cooled to 4C (40F) or lower as soon as possible."

                  I would greatly appreciate any information anyone might have showing that poaching a whole chicken as they do in bok jit gai is a safe way to cook chicken - especially if you are going to eat some but not all of it at once. Because I think the chicken that's not eaten right away poses the greater food safety risk. Thanks!

                  1. re: monamifood

                    This was how my mom and grandmother did it and we never got sick. They'd even store the cooking liquid between chickens to use over and over again. They also did this in China with no refrigeration.

                    1. re: Claudette

                      I have saved the liquid from making soy sauce chicken, but never the cooking liquid from a poached chicken. I think it's a great idea, because that liquid must have a TON of chicken-y goodness, but I simply don't have the room to store it.

                      1. re: ricepad

                        Hi ricepad, If you don't have room to store the liquid from making soy sauce chicken, you could boil it down and store the reduced liquid (a smaller quantity). You could put this concentrated liquid into an ice cube tray or silicone muffin pan; freeze; and then pop the frozen cubes out and put them into a freezer bag in your freezer. This will take a lot less room and keep longer. I don't know your recipe, but if the concentrated broth is very salty, you could use these cubes sparingly for seasoning.

                      2. re: Claudette

                        Hi Claudette, Thanks. Very helpful to learn this from your personal history. OK, I'm convinced! And you may think I'm overly cautious, but at least the first time I poach a chicken, to be on the safe side, I'll choose a smaller chicken. I imagine the chickens they used back in the day in China were smaller and leaner than our standard supermarket chickens are today. And, I think, that using a smaller one would mean it would cook faster - getting the innermost parts of the chicken hotter sooner.

                        And do you think it matters whether you poach a fresh or frozen/defrosted chicken?

                      3. re: monamifood

                        I have never monitored the temperature while using this method, but I can say that I have been cooking chicken this way for nearly 30 years (plain ol' supermarket chickens, too), and have never gotten sick from it. I'm pretty sure, though, that the liquid stays above 140F for the entire time.

                        1. re: ricepad

                          Hi ricepad, Thanks for sharing your personal experience. You have me convinced that poaching a chicken in the manner you described must be safe. I plan to try it. Thanks a lot!

                          1. re: ricepad

                            My mom and grandmother also used the same method but used less time. I think 45-50 mins tops and we never got sick either.

                            1. re: ricepad

                              But now, of course, I will totally do this experiment when next we make bak chuit gai. Luckily, it's a fairly simple one: just stick a thermometer into the water when we take the chicken out after its time in the pot.

                            2. re: monamifood

                              I always boil the chicken for another 5-10 mins before turning off the heat but only let it steep for 30mins. The chicken is still very moist and tender. Some cooks like to take the chicken out and immerse in ice cold water to stop the cooking to have a better texture. I also use the broth to make congee.

                              1. re: smfan

                                You can also make Drunken chicken using poached chicken.

                                1. re: smfan

                                  Yeah, repurposing the liquid is a great idea, but for some reason, I almost never think about it until it's too late. Using that liquid really makes for tasty jook.

                                  1. re: ricepad

                                    Cook two to three chicken in the same broth then use that broth with the chicken fat plus a few cloves of garlic, shallots, a few tbsp of coconut milk, lemon grass, and "pang nan" leaves make very good chicken rice.

                                    1. re: smfan

                                      Lordy, that sounds good! Dead simple, too!

                                  2. re: smfan

                                    Broth is tasty-strong enough to make jook?

                                    1. re: Sarah

                                      No, the taste is light. You can add other ingredients to your jook.

                              2. Melissa Clarks' recipe for Sake-Steamed Chicken is in my "try sometime" file. She makes it sound very flavorful.


                                1. Shorten overcook, and shock the chicken in ice immediately out of steamer.

                                  1. Don't mean to hijack -- but I have searched like crazy and am desperate -- I love the sauce that comes with the steamed chicken from Chinese delis (and hainan chicken) -- it's got ginger, garlic, scallions and oil...what proportions? Does anyone have a recipe, please???

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Sarah

                                      The key is to make with hot oil to bring out the sweetness of the green onions.... I don't use garlic.


                                      1. re: Sarah

                                        Here's another recipe, it's actually very easy to do, although exact proportions aren't stated, I've gotten good results just by eye-balling it.


                                        Oh, there's also the steamed chicken recipe here too