Northern Chinese Style Chicken and Chestnut Casserole

Roasted Chestnuts are a popular street snack and familiar smell on the street corners of Chinese cities during the winter.

1 chicken, 2-3 lbs
8 T. light soy sauce
2 T. dark soy sauce
10 quarter-sized slices fresh ginger, lightly smashed with a cleaver
4 scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths, lightly smashed with a cleaver
2 T. Shaoxing wine, or dry sherry
2 T. Chinese slab sugar, grated, or light brown sugar
2 cups water or chicken stock
3 cups peanut oil or vegetable oil, for deep frying
1 cup roasted Chestnuts, peeled
2 scallions, slivered for garnish

Using a heavy cleaver, cut the chicken into 3 inch pieces, first removing the wings, thighs and legs. Turning the chicken on its side, chop it in half just below the rib cage. Chop the back and breast into pieces.

In a large bowl, combine 4 T. of the light soy, and 1 T. of the dark soy with the ginger and scallion. Toss the chicken pieces in this mixture and let sit at room temperature for one hour.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining light and dark soy sauce, the Shaoxing wine or sherry, and grated slab or brown sugar. Add the water or stock, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat. Pour in the oil, carefully, and heat it to 350°F, checking the temperature with a frying thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil will be at the correct temperature when it gives off a sight shimmer, or haze, and a section of scallion added to the middle of the wok “swims” to the side.

Using a Chinese mesh spoon, fry the chicken pieces in a few at a time, making sure not to add to many at once which would lower the temperature of the oil.  When the chicken is golden, after about one minute, remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Place the chicken into a Dutch oven or heavy earthenware casserole. Add the soy-stock-sugar mixture, and the chestnuts. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and simmer 40 minutes, covered lightly.

Serve hot, garnished with additional slivered scallions.

Always served as part of the New Year menu in Japan, chestnuts represent both success and hard times, mastery and strength. The Japanese chestnut was in cultivation before rice, and the Chinese chestnut possibly for 6000 years.

written by Jim Becker,  Chinatown Guide