Bon Bon Chicken

Cold Chicken, Cucumbers, and Cellophane Noodles in Sesame Sauce

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: Sesame SauceMeal: Easy, Cold

    This is the ultimate chicken salad — a beautiful arrangement of cold steamed chicken, shredded cucumbers, and cellophane noodles covered with a hot and garlicky sesame paste-based sauce. Mrs. Chiang claims that the dish got its unusual name from its appearance. The shredded chicken was supposed to look like sticks of kindling, or bangbang.

    Really too large and elaborate for a family meal, Bon Bon Chicken is a good dish for a dinner party. Though it takes more time to prepare than a regular stir-fried dish, it’s prettier, and can be made ahead of time. The various components of the dish — chicken, cellophane noodles, cucumbers, and sesame sauce — are all prepared separately, and are only combined at the final moment, right before serving. The chicken is the only ingredient that requires any significant amount of preparation and you can, if you want, marinate and steam it several hours before you fix the rest of the dish. Then, when the dish is complete, store it, covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 hours. Pour the sauce over it only at the last minute.

    Method

    Preparation

    2 whole chicken breasts (about 1-½ to 2 pounds) Split each breast in half, but leave the skin and bones intact. Put the chicken in a shallow bowl while you prepare a marinade for it.
    1-inch piece fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then cut it into slivers about ⅛ inch wide, the width of a wooden matchstick.
    6 scallions Clean the scallions, then smash 3 of them, both white part and green, with the side of your cleaver; cut each of them into 2 inch lengths. Slice the remaining scallions crosswise into the thinnest possible pieces; set these aside.

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry

    1 tablespoon Szechwan peppercorns

    Combine the slivered ginger and the scallion lengths with the salt, wine, and Szechwan peppercorns. Rub this mixture all over the chicken breasts, then set the chicken aside, in a shallow bowl, to marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour, turning it over several times while it is marinating.

    (chicken breasts)

    1 package (2 ounces) cellophane noodles

    4 cups boiling water, approximately

    Put the cellophane noodles in a medium-sized bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let soak for 20 minutes.
    2 cucumbers Peel the cucumbers, then cut them lengthwise down the middle and scoop out all the seedy pulp in the center. Cut each cucumber half into 3 sections, each about 2 inches long, and slice each section lengthwise as thin as you can.
    ½ teaspoon salt Put the cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle the salt over them. Mix well and set aside.

    Cooking

    After the chicken has marinated for at least 1 hour, you are ready to steam it. If you don’t have a special Chinese steamer, you can devise a perfectly serviceable one out of your wok or a large pot.

    (chicken)

    Once the steamer has been constructed and filled with several inches of water, put the bowl of chicken, in its marinade, on the rack over the water. Bring the water to a boil over a moderately high flame, cover the steamer, and let the chicken steam for 30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure that the steamer doesn’t run out of water.

    Remove the chicken from the steamer and let it cool.

    4 cups water, approximately

    (cellophane noodles)

    Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Drain the softened cellophane noodles and add them to the boiling water. After the water boils again, cook the noodles for all of 2 or 3 minutes. Drain them and rinse them under cold water, then drain them again, thoroughly, and set them aside.

    The last step before assembling the various components of the dish is to make the sauce:

    8 cloves garlic Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your cleaver, then peel. Put them in a small, steep-sided bowl or mortar.
    1-inch piece fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then chop it until it reaches the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. Put the ginger in the small bowl with the garlic.
    ½ teaspoon salt Add the salt to the garlic and ginger, then, using the wooden handle of your cleaver, a wooden spoon, or pestle, mash them all together until they turn into a coarse paste. (The salt not only heightens the flavors of the garlic and ginger, but its action in drawing out their juices also aids in the process of pulverization.)

    2 teaspoons granulated sugar

    2 teaspoons ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns

    1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes in oil

    3-½ teaspoons rice wine vinegar

    3 tablespoons sesame paste

    1 tablespoon sesame oil

    5 tablespoons soy sauce

    1-½ tablespoons water

    After the contents of the bowl are pulverized, add the sugar, Szechwan peppercorns, hot pepper flakes in oil, vinegar, sesame paste (first stirred thoroughly), sesame oil, soy sauce, and water.
    (chopped scallions) Add the chopped scallions to the other ingredients and stir them all together until the sauce is thoroughly blended.
    (cucumbers) Drain the cucumbers, using your hands to squeeze out as much excess water from them as you can. Select a large flat platter and cover it evenly with the cucumber slices.
    (cellophane noodles) Put the cooked and drained cellophane noodles on the chopping block and cut across them several times to make the individual noodles a more manageable size. Then spread the noodles in a layer over the cucumbers.
    (chicken) Bone the cooked chicken meat and pick off any little pieces of ginger, scallion, or brown peppercorns that are still sticking to it from the marinade. Then, leaving on the skin, chop the chicken into slices about the width of a lead pencil.
    (sauce)

    Arrange the sliced chicken in an attractive way on top of the cellophane noodles.

    Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.