White Cut Chicken (bok cheet gai) with Ginger-Scallion Oil, Cantonese comfort food
One of my favorite things about Chinese home cooking is that it is often incredibly simplistic. Just a few ingredients, clean, vibrant flavors, and no fussiness.
This recipe for poached chicken with ginger-scallion oil is one of my staple dishes when I feel the need to recharge. Served over a bowl of steaming jasmine rice, it is pure comfort and nourishment.
You see this dish at a lot of Chinese wedding banquets or New Year celebrations. As is customary for many Chinese foods, there is a special symbolism to this dish. The white chicken symbolizes happiness and purity, and if it is served whole, it symbolizes family as well.
I am always surprised at how flavorful this chicken is, considering all you’re doing is boiling it. However, the combination of the salt rub and the salted water infused with ginger and garlic must make one phenomenal Jacuzzi bath, because something wonderful happens to that chicken. The meat becomes tender and juicy, and the sesame oil massage adds a warm, nutty fragrance to the skin.
The dipping sauce of minced scallion, minced and grated ginger, salt, and vegetable oil is the finishing touch. The secret to this sauce is heating the oil so that the ginger and scallion bloom with aromatic bliss. Spoon this all over some fluffy white rice, now it’s your turn to reach bliss.
Added Bonus: Save the poaching liquid (removing any scum off the surface) and the chicken carcass to make a fantastic chicken stock.
Chinese White Cut Chicken (Bok Cheet Gai) with Ginger-Scallion Oil
1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds
3-4 big chunks of ginger (1-inch thick), peeled and smashed
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons Kosher salt, plus more to season the chicken
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons scallion, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated (a Microplane is perfect for this)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1. Clean the chicken inside and out, removing any innards, and pat it dry. Rub salt liberally inside and out. Allow it to sit for 1 hour.
2. Fill a large pot with water full enough to cover at least ¾ of the chicken. Bring the water to a boil with the smashed ginger, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of salt. Place the chicken in breast side up, cover, and bring to a boil. Switch it to low heat and let cook for 45 minutes.
3. Flip the chicken, cover it and cook on low heat for another 45 minutes.
4. To test if the chicken is done, insert a chopstick near the thigh. If it goes in and there is no pinkness, it’s done. To lift the bird out of the pot, slip 2 chopsticks beneath the wings and lift up.
5. Pat the bird dry and rub with the sesame oil. Allow it to cool for 30 minutes before cutting. Serve with dipping sauce.
6. Prepare the dipping sauce by heating the vegetable oil just until it starts to smoke. Pour it over the scallion, ginger, and salt, and mix together. Serve with the chicken immediately.