Nostalgia and yearning for the flavors of home can push us to do things we never would have imagined. Just ask Kian Lam Kho. Kho’s family is from Fujian province in Southeast China but he was born in Indonesia and grew up in Singapore. After emigrating to the US in the 1970s, he decided it better to write home for family recipes than to stomach the Cantonese fare at his neighborhood Chinese joint in Boston. Kian’s beautiful new book, “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees,” has become my new guide to making Chinese cuisine at home.
Chinese Three-Cup Chicken (Sanbeiji)
Kian Lam Kho says this chicken dish can be made in a slow cooker if you don’t have a clay pot or a Dutch oven. To serve, pair it with a vegetable side dish and accompany with jasmine rice.
Yield: Makes 2 servings
1½ lbs chicken thighs or legs, each cut into 2 pieces
2 tbsps vegetable oil
6 thin slices of fresh ginger
¼ cup + 2 tbsps Chinese white rice wine
2 tbsps soy sauce
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
2 oz fresh Thai basil leaves
Prepare the chicken: Add the chicken pieces to a large saucepan with enough water to cover the meat completely. Gradually bring the water to a simmer, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Simmer the chicken for 10 minutes, then drain and discard the water. Reserve and set aside the chicken.
Heat a wok over high heat until a droplet of water sizzles and evaporates immediately upon contact. Once hot enough, add the vegetable oil and swirl it around the sides of your wok to evenly coat the surface. Then add the ginger slices and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Next, add the chicken and stir-fry for another 30 seconds, then add 2 tablespoons of rice wine and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Continue to stir-fry the meat for another 2 minutes or until the chicken has browned.
Transfer the chicken to a clay pot or a Dutch oven with a cover. Now add the remaining ¼ cup of rice wine, the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the sesame oil. Cover the pot and simmer the chicken over medium heat for 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the liquid has reduced into a thick sauce.
To serve: Stir in the fresh Thai basil leaves just before serving.
Reprinted from “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees.” Copyright © 2015 by Kian Lam Kho. Photos by Jody Horton. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.