A whole chicken is poached in sherry, soy sauce and Dr. Pepper along with Chinese spices for a dish that is reminiscent of the food courts of Singapore.
When I lived in Singapore, I would often go to the local “Wet Market” to purchase fruits and vegetables and other Asian products. Located underneath one of the large public housing apartment towers near me, it was important to go early in the morning before it got too hot. These markets are called wet markets because they clean the floors with buckets of water after they wash the fresh produce, and butcher and clean fish, chicken and pork. As the heat and humidity of the tropical day rises it can get kind of ripe later in the day!
One of my favorite things to do was to stop at the food court which was located nearby. The food courts of Singapore are like giant Chinese and Asian Restaurants where you can see the food being prepared at different stalls and pick out exactly what you want. You can eat it there at one of the tables provided or take it home for later. They are a part of every housing development and almost everyone eats there at least once a day.
My favorite dish from the food court was Chicken Rice. Chicken Rice is sometimes called the Singaporean national dish. It’s nothing fancy, just chicken poached with Chinese herbs and spices and served with rice which has been cooked in the poaching liquid. Sometimes the simplest and purest dishes are the best.
The recipe that follows is not a classic Chicken Rice recipe. It is a variation on it which uses Dr. Pepper, a classic American soft drink, along with Asian spices as a poaching liquid and sauce.
This recipe is for a whole chicken. I have made it for myself using half a chicken and cutting the poaching liquid in half as well.
Prepare the chicken. Clean it well and cut it in half by removing the backbone. Then press it flat with your hand, breaking the breastbone but keeping the chicken whole.
Make the poaching liquid.
Prepare the spices by crushing them slightly.
In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat some oil and cook the spices until they release their oils and smell delicious.
Add the Dr. Pepper, some honey and Tamari sauce (or soy sauce) and water, along with some scallions. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer until the carbonation is gone and the flavors come together, about 15 minutes. Now stir in some dry sherry.
Put the chicken in the poaching liquid, breast side up. Bring it back to boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer the chicken for 10 minutes.
Turn the chicken over so it is breast down and simmer, covered, for a further 10 minutes.
Now leave the lid on and turn the heat off. Let the chicken sit in the hot broth for a further 30 minutes. Check the chicken for doneness with an instant read thermometer. It should be at 160-165 degrees.
Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board. It should be fall apart tender.
Cover it and let it rest while you bring the poaching sauce back to boil.
Boil the sauce for about 15 or so until it is somewhat reduced and slightly thickened.
You can serve the chicken over rice with some of the sauce or by itself. I like to add some chopped scallions for the bite of flavor they bring.
CHINESE STYLE POACHED CHICKEN
- Whole Chicken 3-4 lbs
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ½ cup red onion thinly sliced and halved
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 ” piece of fresh ginger
- 5 Star Anise pods
- 2 ” cinnamon stick
- 3 cups Dr. Pepper
- 1 ¾ cups Tamari sauce or soy sauce
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup honey
- 2 scallions
Prepare the chicken
- Clean the chicken well. Remove the backbone and flatten the chicken with the palm of your hand, breaking the backbone.
Make the poaching sauce.
- Crush the garlic cloves and the cinnamon stick. Thinly slice the ginger. Cut the scallions into 3” pieces and crush them.
- Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven until shimmering. Add the garlic, star anise, ginger, red onion and cinnamon stick. Saute for a minute or so until they become release their oils and you smell them. Add the chopped scallions, the Dr. Pepper, Tamari sauce, water, and honey. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the sherry.
Cook the Chicken
- Place the chicken, breast-side up in the poaching liquid. Bring to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes then turn the chicken over so the breast meat is down and continue to simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes. Leave the pan covered and turn off the heat. Leave the chicken in the hot poaching liquid for another 30 minutes. The meat should register 165 on an instant-read thermometer when done.
- Carefully remove the chicken to a cutting board and cover with foil.
- Boil the poaching liquid for 10-15 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened.
- Slice the chicken and serve with the poaching sauce and slice scallions.
Note: chicken can be stored in the poaching liquid, tightly covered for 5 days in the refrigerator.