From time to time, my mom would make a no-frills poached chicken that we’d eat simply with some fish sauce or salt and pepper. She used what I now know as the “Chinese” way to poach a chicken: bring a pot of water to just under a boil, stick a whole chicken in the pot, take the pot off the heat, and let it sit for about an hour. Plain poached chicken may not sound very appealing, but the gentle Chinese method of poaching results in a super moist and tender chicken.
Later in life when my family moved to Chicago, we discovered the joy of Chinese poached chicken served with ginger-scallion oil (very much like what you would eat with Chinese whole steamed fish) at a random hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. Chinese poached chicken is good on it’s own, but with ginger-scallion oil it’s elevated to a level worthy of addiction.
It’s no surprise that ginger-scallion oil is a perfect condiment to almost anything since it’s made up of two out of the three ingredients for the Chinese holy trinity: ginger, scallion, and garlic. Knowing I was one ingredient away from completing the trifecta, I saw some fresh garlic at Marketplace on Oakton and decided to incorporate the green stalks into my ginger-scallion oil.
I chose to use the less pungent stalks of the fresh garlic rather than the bulbs that most people are familiar with because I didn’t want a strong garlic flavor to overwhelm the delicateness of the chicken. Plus, I’d never used fresh garlic stalks before so I thought it would be an interesting experiment. Under the knife, the stalks felt like a sturdy scallion as they were a bit denser than their Allium cousin. Clearly I took a more rustic approach as the pieces of garlic stalk were cut unevenly in some places.
I ended up using the garlic bulbs (and some homemade berbere) for some yemisir watt that I made later in the week.
From a distance, the fresh garlic stalks are somewhat indistinguishable from the scallion.
The intensely aromatic mixture, sauce, oil, or what have you can be paired with pretty much anything and instantly make it taste amazing. In fact, I’d be perfectly content with eating plain white rice topped with ginger-scallion oil for a meal. However, I thankfully had chicken on hand. Instead of poaching the chicken in water, I used some homemade chicken stock for some extra flavor and cooked rice with the resulting liquid.
The ratios listed below are by no means strict. Just go what with what fits your tastes and use common sense when it comes to how much oil to use.
Chinese poached chicken
- Pot of water or stock => just under a boil
- Whole chicken => into pot, take pot off heat, ~1 hour
- Equal parts ginger and scallion => mince
- Hot pan => neutral oil, just under smoke point
- Step #1 => into pan, ~1 minute, stir constantly