白斬雞 (báizhǎnjī) A pure-flavoured chicken dish–served cold it makes a great starter.
There are many variations on Cantonese
white cut chicken. All involve simmering and steeping a whole
bird. Most require some sort of light seasoning. I have tried
a few different versions but none are any better than this
recipe that I got from a restauranteur on the east coast of
Taiwan. There is no seasoning – none – a rarity in Chinese
cooking. The idea is to cook the chicken until it is just done,
before it starts leaking juices and flavour, and its fibre
starts to break down. The flesh should be firm and succulent.
The dish can be eaten hot but is more commonly it served cold,
which is how I prefer it. Serve as a starter.
2 kg (4 1/2 lb) whole chicken
Rinse chicken inside and out.
Put breast-side up in a large
pot. Add enough water to cover chicken.
Bring pot to boil.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Turn off flame. Skim off any scum on water. Replace
lid and let chicken steep for 30 minutes.
Pour off hot water leaving chicken in pot.
Pour in ice water and
immerse chicken for several minutes to prevent overcooking
and to seal in juices.
Even the English, known for their plain cooking, use salt when boiling potatoes and carrots. Yet the Chinese cook rice in nothing but water. In stark contrast to the way most other foods are prepared in China, rice is a singularly pure, simple, even bland dish; the perfect foil for well seasoned meat and vegetable dishes.