i may or may not have shared with readers about my dialect group.. I belong to a Chinese dialect group called Chawan or Zhao An (诏安）。 Zhao An is a town situated in the Province of Fujian border and next to Chaozhou (潮州） and Santou (汕头）that situated at the border of Guandong Province, People’s republic of China. Dialect and culture wise, I honestly believed that has resemblances of half Hokkien and half Teochew…Most of the dishes that we had are very much influenced by the Chaozhou cuisines. However, there is one rather authentic and unique dish that Zhao An has is the sugar cane smoked chicken.
Most Sarawakian Zhao An will know of this dish.. It was always featured in the annual Kuching Festivals… As to why only Zhao An dialect group prepared this dish and not other dialects group is still a mystery to me.. I am rather puzzled that why our close associates like Teochew and Hakka did not have such a dish..
I need not to search for any recipe for this special smoked chicken. I grew up with them. During my childhood days and in major festivals such as Chinese New Year Eve, Ching Ming or Ghost Festivals, my families will slaughter 5-6 chickens, 2-3 ducks and lots of pork belly for praying.. As most families did not have any refrigerator in the 1970s, after praying, one of the ways of preserving large quantities of meat is to smoke these meats. After praying and dinner, those poached chicken that were not consumed during the day were marinated with sugar, dark soya sauce and white pepper. It was then smoked until the desired colour and flavour .. After smoking, these smoked meat were left in an airy place and can kept for 3-4 days without the need of re-heating..
Smoked chicken is not uncommon in China. In fact, most provinces do have their ways of smoking the chicken but the uniqueness of Zhao An smoked chicken is that it is sweet and juicy and the smoking time is rather short as compared to other recipes. Sugar cane (if available) or otherwise white sugar were used to generate the smokes for the smoking process. These was different from other recipes that uses tea leaves or rice grains. Hence the smoked chicken is glossy, slightly sweet on the skin and a rather faint smoky flavour. Of course you can smoke longer to get the strong smoky aroma if you prefer that.
Traditionally, sugar cane was used in the smoking but in most cases it was not used especially when it was not readily available. Instead, white sugar was used instead. I can’t claim that this recipe is authentic but it is my family recipe that we have been using all these years.. It is in fact a very straight forward and easy recipe but yields great taste..
I have been hesitating of preparing these smoke chickens in my Singapore home as traditionally, a wok have to be set aside purely for the purpose of smoking the chicken. I am not willing to invest in having a wok purely for this purpose but most of my brothers’ families in Kuching do have such wok. Today, I have decided to simplify the method and see if it works.. Yes, it worked and it did not dirty much of my utensils. Of course, i have smoke the chicken with full precaution with the hope that it will not dirty my wok or pot and rendered it became unusable for other purposes…
WHAT IS REQUIRED
One small to medium size chicken, cleaned.
1-2 tablespoons of dark soya sauce
2-3 tablespoons of castor sugar
1 tablespoon of white pepper
STEPS OF PREPARATION
Get ready a pot of water and bring to boil. When the water is boiling , submerge the whole chicken into the water with its back facing up. The reason letting the chicken having its back facing up is because chicken breast takes longer time to cook and positioning chicken this way will ensure that breast are fully cooked. Lower heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.(for medium sized chicken). Timing will depend on size of the chicken, the smaller the chicken, the shorter will be the timing.
Once the chicken is ready, transfer out and let it cool at room temperature. Meanwhile, mix all marinating agents (dark soya sauce, half of the sugar and white pepper) and set aside. Once the chicken is cooled, brush the marinating agent over the entire chicken and let it marinate for at least half an hour. If you are short of time, you can directly brush the marinating agent over the hot chicken.
In a big pot or wok adequate to put the entire chicken, put a piece of aluminium foil or some aluminium plate in the centre, add the remaining half of the sugar. On the heat (high heat) until the sugar starts to melt and caramelize. Once the sugar starts to caramelize and smoke starts to come out, reduce the heat to low. Put something on top of the aluminium plate to hold the chicken and place the marinated chicken on top. Close the lid and let it smokes for about 20-30 minutes (at 15 minutes junction, you can check if the smell is too strong for your liking).
Once the chicken is done, off the heat and let it rest in the pot or wok for another 15 minutes to continue the smoking process. Open the lid and transfer out for cooling. Throw away aluminium plate that were full of burnt sugar.
Smoking at such a short period is to provide flavour to the chicken. If you need it for real preservation purposes, you will need to smoke for at least 1-2 hour. The longer the smoking time, the more smoky flavour it will have but the chicken will also become less juicy. Over smoked chicken can also turn bitter . Low heat shall be used throughout. As long as the sugar is burnt and smoke generated, it is adequate. After smoking, the skin of the chicken shall be dry and glossy. If it is still wet, the smoking process need to be continued.
Make sure that the sugar crystals do not drop on any part of the wok or pot besides in the aluminium plate. Otherwise, you will have a hard time of cleaning the wok or pot. Should it happens, you may need to boil the pot with hot water and soak overnight before you can clean the burnt sugar.
I have prepared this dish as a respect to my dialect (Zhao An) and my late mum. I missed this dish very much though my sister in law did prepare for me to enjoy while I was having holiday in Kuching. Even when my mum is around, such dish will not be prepared unless there are festivals.. I hope with this recipe, more readers of other dialect can try our delicacies. Trust me, this smoked chicken, unlike other recipe, have a rather subtle smoky taste.. It is sweet and juicy due to the ingredients and method of preparation. I believed most readers will be able to accept this humble dish of ours.
Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.
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when I read about your Chawan dialect, I was very surprised that I have never heard of this. When I went to visit my KAI Ma, she told me her Dad was a Chawan from Kuchinbg. Wong. I remembered your this blog. There is indeed Chawan people,
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