The nearest I have been to China is Hong Kong, where you can feast on every variety of regional Chinese food. My many visits to restaurant kitchens there made me appreciate their ingenious ways of cooking. This method of cooking chicken to eat cold produces a more succulent result than any other, as it must be the gentlest way there is (you may have done much the same thing with a whole salmon in a fish kettle).
You will need four metal skewers for this recipe. The chicken is cooked slowly by the heat from the skewers and the cooling hot water. Only use small chickens so that the skewers generate the heat right through the flesh, and never use frozen birds. If you are cooking for a crowd, use two or three chickens and cook them in a large preserving pan.
Insert the metal skewers crossways right through the body and legs of the chicken and put it into a large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the chicken. Peel the garlic and chop roughly. Cut the unpeeled piece of ginger across fairly thinly. Break up the cinnamon stick roughly. Put the garlic, ginger and cinnamon into the saucepan and add the cayenne pepper, star anise, sesame oil and teabags. Bring to the boil and boil fiercely for 3 minutes. Then cover the pan, turn off the heat and leave the chicken in the covered pan until the water is cold. Remove the chicken and chill thoroughly in the fridge.
To serve, remove the skewers, carve the chicken in very thin slices and arrange on a fiat serving dish. Chop the spring onions and scatter them all over the chicken, just before serving, trickle a few lines of soy sauce across the slices of chicken.
© 1997 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.