Imperial Concubine Chicken
It seems, according to Chinese culinary tradition, that some emperor or other once had a favorite mistress who enjoyed a particular chicken dish so much that it was eventually named after her. Now, it may well be that there were several such ladies, or perhaps just one with highly diverse gastronomic tastes, but there are actually several, quite different, chicken preparations which all are known as ‘Imperial Concubine Chicken’. One version, being chicken braised with rice wine, bamboo shoots and mushrooms, is the one I am preparing here today…
- Chicken Wing Drumettes; *see below
- 1/3 cup canned Bamboo Shoots sliced Julienne; * also see below.
- 6 small Chinese Dried Black Mushrooms;
- 2 Scallions in 2” sections (keep the white and green parts separate);
- 1 Tbsp. finely shredded fresh Ginger;
- ½ cup Shaoxing Cooking Wine (or dry sherry);
- ½ cup Chicken Stock;
- 2 Tbsp. Light Soy;
- 1 tsp. Sugar;
- You can use any chicken pieces you like for this dish (legs or whole chicken wings are common) but I like the end part of the wing known as the ‘drumette’. As for the bamboo shoots, using canned is fine if you rinse them well and then soak in a couple of changes of fresh water for an hour or two to get rid of the ‘canned’ taste. I usually add a tiny splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the last soak.
The first step is to quickly blanch the chicken pieces in boiling salted water for about a minute or so until no pinkness is visible and then rinse in chilled water to cool and clean them. Afterwards, pat them dry and set aside for now. This step is not absolutely crucial but it does help keep a ‘cleaner’ looking sauce.
Reconstitute the mushrooms by soaking in warm water to cover for an hour or so and then drain, reserving the soaking water. Remove the stems and then slice the caps into two or three pieces.
Heat a little oil in a suitable pot and add the ginger shreds and the white part of the scallion. As soon as these give off their aroma, add the chicken pieces and lightly brown.
Add the bamboo and mushrooms along with the wine, stock, soy sauce and sugar. Let it to start bubbling and then turn down to low. Allow the mixture to simmer away for about 30 – 40 minutes until the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced to about half its original volume. If it evaporates or is absorbed a little too quickly, add some of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid so as to maintain a good half, or three quarters, of a cup of sauce around the chicken.
Finally, add the green part of the scallion and cook just a little longer until the scallion greens have wilted a little. Serve piping hot with rice or noodles, or as part of a larger Chinese meal.