I still remember the first time I ate this dish—it was the beautiful texture of the chicken that has stayed with me. The chicken is poached whole, then steeped so the flesh becomes soft and silky. You can serve it with various dipping sauces. Here I have matched it with the traditional ginger and spring onion dressing to keep it Chinese but it works just as well with a South-east Asian dressing and a crunchy green salad.
80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) peanut oil
4 dried red chillies
2 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced, reserving the green for the garnish
1 large knob of fresh ginger, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
100 ml (31/2 fl oz) rice vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
1 x 1.6 kg (3 lb 8 oz) organic or good- quality chicken
3 litres (12 cups) water
125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) white wine vinegar
115 g (4 oz/1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
170 ml (51/2 fl oz/2/3 cup) water
2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers, washed, quartered lengthways and sliced (about 1 cup)
8 red Asian shallots
1/3-cup julienned fresh ginger
1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
To make the dressing, heat the oil in a wok over medium heat and cook the chillies until blackened. Discard the chillies and leave the oil to cool. In a bowl, combine the spring onion, ginger, garlic, rice wine, vinegar, salt and sugar, and then add to the cooled oil. Leave to stand for 1 hour to allow the flavours to infuse into the oil.
Meanwhile, remove the fat from the cavity of the chicken, rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. In a saucepan large enough to fit the chicken, bring the water to a boil. Place the chicken into the pan and return to the boil. Place a lid on top of the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile make the relish. Combine the vinegar, sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat when the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour the syrup over the top.
Remove the pan with the chicken from the heat and leave the chicken to steep for 20 minutes. During this time do not remove the lid or the heat will be lost and the chicken will not cook. After 20 minutes remove the lid and carefully lift the chicken from the stock. Drain on paper towel and chop Chinese–style through the bone, then put on a platter.
Pour the spring onion dressing over the chicken, garnish with the green spring onion pieces and serve with the relish and rice. Serves 6.