Soy Sauce Chicken is a classic Chinese dish. A whole chicken is marinated and then poached in a pot full of soy sauce and various spices. Once cooked, it’s cut up into chunks and served warm or at room temperature. While this recipe is a bit challenging to make at home, it’s much cheaper than purchasing a Soy Sauce Chicken from the store– and you get to modify the spices to suit your taste! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Am I right?
Recipe Testing: 3 chickens and a jug of soy sauce later…
I set out to make Soy Sauce Chicken mainly to see if I could actually make it at home. I love a culinary challenge! While I had eaten this dish numerous times (and loved it), I had never made it from scratch…so I did LOTS of research on how to make it. There are tons of variations for the preparation of this dish. Some recipes call for the chicken to be marinated for just a few hours to marinating it overnight. Some stuffed the chicken with ginger and scallions, some didn’t. And some called for the chicken to be poached, while others suggested roasting was the better method.
As with all my recipes, I test each recipe at least three times before posting it up on my blog. So three chickens and a jug of soy sauce later, here are the results from my testing:
- Marinate the chicken overnight– do this breast side down and weight the top of the chicken with a small saucer and a heavy canned food item to keep the chicken fully submerged in the marinade.
- Dilute the soy sauce with some water for the marinade– a marinade that is 100% soy sauce will be WAY too salty!
- Poach the chicken first, then roast it– because crispy chicken skin is the best!
- Before roasting, sprinkle a bit of Chinese Five Spice powder over the chicken for some extra flavour and to compliment the spices in the marinade.
A Symbol for Chinese New Year
While Soy Sauce Chicken can be enjoyed year round, it is a great meal to serve for Chinese New Year as serving a whole chicken represents family and togetherness. To really get the message across, it is best to serve the chicken with the head and feet still on, and then remove them once you present it to your guests. Of course, you don’t have to do this (especially if your guests are squeamish!), a regular roast chicken works just as well too!
Get the Recipe!
Soy Sauce Chicken
- 1 whole chicken 4-5 pounds, cleaned
- 2 cups soy sauce preferably low-sodium
- 1 cup shaoxing wine
- 10 cups water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3, 1- cm thick slices of ginger
- 5 cloves garlic peeled but left whole
- 5 dried chilis whole
- 2 scallions cut into thirds
- 2 star anise whole
- 1 stick cinnamon whole
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds whole
- 1 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns whole
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves whole
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice powder
- Begin by preparing the marinade. In a large stock pot, add the soy sauce, shaoxing wine, water, and brown sugar. Bring the contents of the pot just to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat to allow the sugar to dissolve. Do not let it boil! Once all the sugar has dissolved, add the ginger, garlic, chilis, scallion, star anise, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, szechuan peppercorns and cloves.
- Let the marinate cool slightly for 10-15 minutes. Once cooled, add the entire chicken to the pot, breast-side down. Make sure that you rotate the chicken in the pot to get the inside cavity filled with the marinade. Try not to tear the skin as you move it around.
- The chicken will still tend to float in the marinade, so use a saucer and a can of beans to weight the chicken down. Carefully cover the pot and transfer it into the fridge to marinate for 24 hours. You can also marinade the chicken for 4-6 hours if you are tight for time, but the longer, the better!
- Remove the pot of the chicken and marinade from the pot 1 hour before you want to cook it so that the chicken warms up to room temperature.
- Now let's cook the chicken. Place the pot of the chicken and marinade on the stove over medium-high heat. Let the chicken cook in the liquid for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for an additional 15 minutes. The residual heat will gently cook the chicken some more, but it won't be fully cooked at this point.
- After 15 minutes, carefully remove the chicken from the pot (without tearing the skin!). I recommend that you insert the end of a wooden spoon into the cavity of the chicken and tilt it to drain the marinade that is in there. Use another wooden spoon to hold the rest of the chicken so that you don't drop it.
- Once the marinade has been drained off, place the chicken on a roasting rack that is set into a roasting pan. If you don't have a roasting rack, use a few scallions or pieces of ginger to prop the chicken up so that it is not touching the roasting pan. This will allow all sides of the chicken to get crispy.
- Next, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Use a few layers of paper towels to pat the chicken completely dry. You don't want any moisture on the chicken or else it will take a while to crisp up. Once the chicken is dried off, use a pastry brush to cover the chicken in vegetable oil. Once coated in oil, sprinkle the Chinese 5 Spice powder over the entire chicken and use the pastry brush to evenly coat all sides.
- Roast the chicken in the center of the oven for 20 minutes. The skin will become crispy and the entire chicken will be golden. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken by inserting it into the thickest part of the chicken (between the leg and thigh). Once the temperature reaches 160 degrees F, remove it from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes to allow it to finish cooking (it will be fully cooked when the thermometer reads 165 degrees F).
- While the chicken bakes, you can boil the remaining marinade that is left in the pot until it reduces by half. The flavour becomes concentrated and tastes great over rice!
- Use a sharp knife or cleaver to break down the chicken. Remove the legs and wings first, then remove the breasts and thighs. Try not to rip or tear the chicken skin! Chop each piece into chunks so people can easily grab some chicken. Arrange the pieces onto a platter and serve warm. Enjoy!