Chicken with Daikon Greens, or 萝卜缨炒鸡片
This dish was inspired by a recipe I discovered in a very old Chinese cookery book. That recipe paired Chicken slices (dark meat, as I recall), with Watercress, in a light sauce made with Chicken stock. Watercress, at the time, was impossible to find, and so I recreated the recipe using Daikon greens (萝卜缨) instead of the Watercress, Chicken breast instead of dark meat, and Rice Wine instead of Chicken stock. As it happens, the dish you see above actually tweaks my first re-creation a little further.
By the way, the Chinese name for this dish 萝卜缨炒鸡片, or 蘿蔔纓炒雞片 in traditional characters, identifies Daikon in the first two characters, which are pronounced as ‘Luóbo’ in Mandarin, and ‘Lo Bok’ in Cantonese. Indeed, I recall that, when this giant Radish first began to appear regularly in Western Supermarkets, it was most commonly identified by the Cantonese name. Nowadays, of course, the Japanese name, ‘Daikon’ appears to be the name by which most people recognize the vegetable.
The third character, which specifies that the green tops are being used, actually translate most directly as ‘Tassles’, which is, I think, a much prettier and poetic rendering than ‘greens’ or ‘tops’. As for the rest of the name, the fourth character means ‘stir-fry’, while the final two translate as ‘Chicken Slices’.
Ingredient Notes for 萝卜缨炒鸡片
First of all, although I have primarily made this dish with actual Daikon leaves, on this particular occasion, I used the tops culled from some very young white ‘icicle’ radishes pulled from the garden. These diminutive cousins of the giant Daikon are very similar in texture and flavor (although the smaller variety tend to be a bit sharper). You can use either, or, if you prefer, substitute with Spinach, or any sort of ‘greens’ you fancy.
The Recipe Card below calls for a Western style White Wine to form the basis of the sauce. Originally, I prepared this dish with Rice Wine, but as in my Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce, the non-traditional addition works very nicely. If you prefer to use neither, a good quality Basic Chinese Chicken Stock may be substituted instead.
How to Cook 蘿蔔纓炒雞片
In contrast to the original recipe, which simply chopped fresh watercress, I salt my greens and let them sit for two days so that they ferment slightly and produce a nice lactic acid tang. You don’t need to actually ferment them if you don’t wish to do that, but the greens are improved if macerated with salt for an hour or so.
All you need do here for the salting process is to is toss the greens with the salt and cover them in a suitable container while they macerate, or ferment, if that is your choice. Don’t worry about the amount of salt used here; almost all of it will be washed away later.
Here are the greens after sitting on the counter top for 48 hours. They are considerable wilted and are just beginning to take on a lightly sour aroma. They will look much the same after just a brief hour or so to soften, but the aroma and ultimate taste will be different.
Once the greens are sufficiently pickled, pour away any liquid thrown off by the process and rinse them well with cold water to remove the salt. Next, trim away the thick roots and chop the remaining leaves moderately finely.
To prepare the chicken, you need to make three or four horizontal slices through the breast (this is easier if you partially freeze it first) and then cut the slices into bite size pieces. For this particular dish, I did not use the entire breast as I trimmed the thinnest portions of the edges away and used this meat for fried rice in a different meal.
When you are ready to cook, mix the cornstarch together with enough water to make a paste and then stir in the wine and the soy sauce. Set these aside for now.
Now, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in your wok over moderate heat and quickly sauté the chicken pieces until they have just turned opaque but are still a little pink in the center Remove to a bowl for the moment.
Replenish the oil if necessary and then briefly fry the garlic until it gives off its aroma. Add the greens and toss for a few minutes to brighten and drive of a little more water.
Finally add back the chicken and then follow this with the sauce mixture, stirring until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately.
Your Recipe Card:
Chicken with Daikon Greens (萝卜缨炒鸡片)
- 1 large Chicken breast;
- 1 bunch of Daikon or Radish Greens or any other greens you like;
- 2 – 3 tablespoons of Salt;
- 2 cloves of Garlic; chopped;
- ¼ cup Dry White Wine;
- ¾ tsp. Cornstarch;
- 1 tsp. light Soy sauce;
- Toss the Greens with the Salt and let sit to macerate for an hour. If desired, allow to sit, covered, in a warm place, for up to two days further to ferment and sour.
- Once macerated, and fermented if applicable, pour the expelled liquid from the Greens, rinse quickly, squeeze to remove excess water, and then chop finely.
- Slice the Chicken breast into thin, bite-sized squares.
- Heat a little oil in a pan over moderate-heat and fry the chicken pieces until they just turn white, then remove to a bowl for the moment.
- Replenish the oil in the pan, turn the heat to high and stir-fry the Garlic until the aroma arises.
- Add the Greens, stir-fry until heated through and excess water is driven off.
- Add back the chicken along with the sauce mix and stir-fry until all is hot and the sauce thickened. Serve immediately.