Bong-Bong Chicken

棒棒雞

Bong-bong means “club-club,” a description of the pounding process that gives this cold chicken its special softness. Satisfying and filling, this is Szechwanese fare at its earthy best—simple to prepare, complexly flavored, and gutsily good.

  • The classic formula calls for sesame sauce and shredded mung bean sheets to accompany the chicken. I find peanut sauce equally tasty and bean threads (glass noodles) easier to handle. Cucumber is a traditional variation for color and crunch.
  • This is great party or picnic food. Cheap and easy, it can be made in quantity, well in advance.

Ingredients

  • pounds fresh whole chicken breasts, with skin on and bone in, cooked the “no-poach” way

Toppings (choose one)

Salad bases (use one or both)

  • 1½–2 ounces bean threads (glass noodles)
  • ¾ pound very firm seedless cucumbers, or 1½ pounds very firm cucumbers with seeds

Optional garnish

  • 3–4 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

Method

Cutting and clubbing the chicken

Skin and bone the cooked chicken, keeping the meat in as much of one piece as possible. Separate fillet and main pieces. Discard any membranes, tendons, or hard spots. Cut the meat against the grain into strips ¼ inch wide. With a rolling pin, lightly club each strip in 2 or 3 places to separate the fibers and loosen the meat. Be gentle with the delicate fillets. Pull the strips into 2 or 3 pieces; they should come apart easily. Tightly sealed, the chicken may be refrigerated overnight.

Preparing the salad base

Soak the noodles until soft and silky, as directed, then cut into 3–4 inch lengths.

Cut off the tips of the cucumbers. Peel and seed, if necessary. To remove seeds, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds with a small spoon. Cut the cucumbers into thin strips, which is traditional, or into small arcs, which is a pretty treatment for seeded cucumbers.

If you are working in advance, the noodles may be drained and left at room temperature. The cucumbers may be sealed airtight and refrigerated up to several hours.

Assembling the dish

Drain the noodles thoroughly so they will not dilute the sauce. Spread the noodles on a large platter, then layer the cucumbers and chicken on top. For a nice presentation, choose a platter of contrasting color, and arrange the layers so that each is rimmed by a border of the one underneath. Just before serving, pour thin streams of sauce over the chicken; do not smother it. Garnish with the coriander, if desired, and serve a bowl of sauce alongside. Invite each guest to dress and toss his or her own portion.

Unsauced and ungarnished, the dish may be sealed and refrigerated for an hour before serving. The salad may be served slightly chilled, but the sauce should be at room temperature for peak flavor.

Unsauced leftovers will keep 1–2 days, refrigerated and sealed airtight. For a change, try dressing them with Dijon Mustard Sauce.

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