In China, roasting foods is a technique that has traditionally been reserved for commercial bakers and grocers. Large ovens are expensive to build and to use, and are thus a rarity in the average private home, where space is in any case quite limited.
However, in the West it is a different story. Even fifty years ago, an urban home or apartment with a hob almost always had an oven. So, with their legendary flexibility and adaptability, Chinese-Americans quickly invented recipes that took advantage of the roasting capabilities of the oven.
Here is a recipe my uncle put together for a favourite dish he would enjoy on his day off. We used to gather at his home for Monday-night dinner, and this is one of the centrepieces of the meal he would serve. It is quite delectable and easy to make – an unusual roast chicken that is extremely aromatic and very tasty.
In a bowl, whisk together the bean sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon bark, peppercorns and chicken stock.
Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour the mixture from the bowl into the wok and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the wok from the heat, toss in the fresh coriander and allow the mixture to cool completely.
Dry the chicken thoroughly inside and out with kitchen paper. Pin down the neck flap with a skewer. Pour the mixture from the bowl into the cavity and truss the end of the chicken so that it is tightly secured.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then add the honey. With a large sieve, dip the chicken in and out of this water several times. Hang the chicken in a dry cool place or in front of a fan and allow it to dry thoroughly. This should take about 45 minutes. Place a tray under the chicken to catch any liquid that may drip.
Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F, gas mark 8). Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting tin. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) and continue to roast for 1 hour, or until the juices run clear. Drain any liquid from the chicken, keep warm and serve with the chicken. Allow the chicken to rest for 25 minutes before carving.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.