Bon Bon Chicken at So Good
The now defunct So Good Restaurant, a long-time fixture in Ottawa’s Chinatown, was a small family restaurant that advertised itself as serving Canadian, Thai, Vietnamese, Sichuan, and Cantonese cuisine. I only managed to eat a few meals at the establishment but, in the main, I enjoyed everything I was served. The Cold Chicken dish you see pictured above was their interpretation of a Sichuan classic. It was actually much more Cantonese in spirit than is traditional, but it was still very good.
Bon Bon Chicken (棒棒鸡) also appears in English as ‘Bang Bang Chicken’, sometimes as ‘Pon Pon Chicken’, or elsewhere as some variant spelling thereof. It is often asserted that the name is an onomatopoeic rendering of the noise made while tenderizing the chicken by pounding it with a rolling pin, or other implement, but, in fact, the ‘Bang’ more precisely refers to the implement itself and a proper translation of the Chinese name would be ‘Stick Stick Chicken’.
The dish, which by most accounts has its origins in Sichuan, traditionally consists of cold, poached Chicken, shredded atop a bed of julienned Cucumber (and sometimes Cellophane Noodles), and covered with a Sesame Paste based Sauce sparked with Garlic and Chili Oil. There are, of course, many varied interpretations of the classic form, with a Peanut Sauce replacing the Sesame Paste base in many versions, and one can even find recipes where the chicken is breaded, deep-fried, and served hot without the cucumber.
The Bon Bon Chicken at So Good was breast meat, rather than thigh meat which most Chinese would likely prefer, and it was served in chunks rather than the more traditional shreds. It was clearly poached, and was nicely tender, but it was still slightly warm and I rather think I may have been served the first dish of the day.
There was only a little Cucumber, but it was fresh and lightly salted, and complimented the chicken very nicely. As for the sauce, this was quite a bit of a departure from the classic. There was a slight nuttiness to it, but this appeared to come from a little dash of Sesame Oil rather than Sesame Paste, or Peanut Butter, and I rather think the base was Sweet Bean Sauce with, perhaps, just a touch of Hoisin Sauce added. There was a faint heat in the aftertaste, but no Chili flakes or oil visible, and certainly none of the fiery quality you would get in a traditional Sichuanese version. Still, while the So Good version of this dish represented a pretty radical departure from the basic form, it was still very tasty and enjoyable.