The Chinese use steamers a great deal, partly because the majority do not use ovens in the domestic kitchen in the Western way. Steaming in the British consciousness is still synonymous with invalid food, implying blandness. The Chinese imbue flavour in steamed food with aromatics and never overcook, which leads to dryness. Chicken cooked this way is usually served with steamed rice but it is also very good with a bowl of noodles and some chicken broth ladled over.
Brush the chicken all over with half the soy sauce and leave to marinate for about 30 minutes.
On a plate which will just fit in the steamer, put the chopped spring onion and the star anise and sit the chicken on top. Sprinkle on the chilli and season with salt and pepper. Cover the top with the ginger and pour over the remaining soy sauce. Steam for 8–12 minutes, remove and leave to stand for 3 minutes.
To serve, slice the chicken and serve it with steamed glutinous rice, with the juices and vegetables from the plate on top, but discarding the star anise.
For a fresh finish, scatter over some coarsely chopped coriander leaves.
© 1998 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.