Red-Cooked Chicken

(Photo by newyork808/Flickr)

The well-flavored liquid is called a master sauce in Chinese cuisine, and it may be frozen or refrigerated and used again and again. If re-used once a week at least, it need not be frozen.

Serves 6.


1 large roasting chicken, about 1.5 kg/3 lb
375 ml/12 fl oz/1 1/2 cups dark soy sauce
375 ml/12 fl oz/1 1/2 cups water
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup Chinese wine or sherry
8 large slices fresh ginger
2 whole star anise (or about 12 sections)
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons crushed rock sugar
2 teaspoons oriental sesame oil


Rinse chicken with cold water inside and out, remove any flaps of fat from the cavity and discard. Choose a saucepan just large enough to hold the chicken so it will be almost submerged in the cooking liquid. Put chicken into saucepan breast downwards and add all the ingredients except the sesame oil. Bring slowly to the boil. Turn heat very low, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Use tongs to turn the chicken over without piercing its skin. Replace lid and simmer for 15 minutes more, basting with liquid every 5 minutes.

Turn off heat and leave chicken submerged in liquid in the covered saucepan for 45 minutes. Lift chicken out, letting any liquid in the cavity drain back into the saucepan. Brush the chicken all over with sesame oil. Carve or chop in the Chinese manner and assemble on serving plate. Serve with some of the cooking liquid as a dipping sauce. Save remaining liquid, refrigerate and use for red-cooking other food. The flavour will become deeper and more intense with each time it is cooked. Add a little of this master sauce to flavour other dishes.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)