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Monday, July 25, 2011

White Cut Chicken (Bach Gin Gai)

Whenever my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, or an special occasion for that matter, I would always ask for this dish. I don't know how to phonetically spell it or properly translate it but I assure you it is quite delicious. The chicken is the silkiest and moistest chicken I have ever eaten but what brings it all together is the ginger sauce. As soon as I take a whiff of the sauce, it brings back memories of my childhood days and reminds me of the simpler times. I absolutely adore this dish and hopefully, you will to.

I will admit that while growing up, I never paid attention to my parents as they cooked, a mistake I terribly regret, for if I had who knows where I would be now. A few years ago, I decided to make up for lost time and asked my dad to show me how to make my favorite childhood meal. He was more than happy to oblige but warned me that I might not like it so much afterwards. I had no idea what he meant by that but I went forward, hoping that it wouldn't be a mistake.

When it came to gathering the ingredients it was quite simple. All you need is

                -4 to 5 Pound whole chicken (foster farm or organic, don't settle for inferior brands)
                -1/2 Pound of ginger
                -2 to 3 Green onion stalks
                -1 Tablespoon of Salt
                -1 cup of frying oil (one with a good smoke point, ex. vegetable which is what I use)
                -3 pounds of ice

Step 1: Wash the chicken, clean out the cavity (remove all the giblets and side aside or toss away if you don't
            like to eat them) Let it rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes

Step 2: While waiting for the chicken, fill a large pot (big enough to submerge the whole chicken) 3/4 of water   
            and bring to a roaring boil

Step 3: As you wait around, peel the ginger making sure to leave no trace of the skin (that will make the sauce 

Step 4: Next you want to mince it up extremely fine. Traditionally, this is done with two butcher cleavers 
            chopping vigorously for about 15-20 minutes, to achieve the right size. The smaller the better, bigger 
            pieces will give too much bite to the sauce. For those thinking why not use a food processor, I have 
            tried it and found it to lack a certain quality. I personally would not advise using the food processor 
            partly because I am a stickler to tradition and partly because it just doesn't yield the same results


Step 5: By now the water should be ready to go. Here is what you need to do.
                A) Place chicken into boiling water, making sure it is completely submerged.
                B) Bring back to a boil. Toss in one whole green onion (cleaned w/ root cut off)
                C) Immediately drop heat to low simmer and cover with lid
                D) Set timer for 50-60 minutes depending on size (about 10 minutes per pound)

Step 6: About 20 minutes in, check to make sure the water is not boiling, if so reduce temperature more

Step 7: While waiting, finely mince 1-2 stalks of green onion, same size as ginger (root remove) and combine 
            with the ginger mixture. The ideal ratio is 4 to 1 (onions adds color and some flavor, less is more).  
            Add about 1 tablespoon of salt

Step 8: Heat oil in pan until smoking hot. Pour hot oil over ginger mixture slowly. You should hear loud 
            crackling and sizzling sounds as soon as the oil hits the ginger. If not, it's not hot enough. Mix 
            thoroughly, making sure there is enough oil, it should not be chunky. Taste, it should be salty, gingery 
            and slight onion flavor. Store in refrigerator and serve cold

Step 9: When there is 5 minutes left, open the lid and poke a fork into the thigh meat and push deep down. If 
            juices run clear than let the time run down, if not cover add another 10 minutes. *if there is a slight 
            pink tinge to the bones or on the meat that is normal but red is not*

Step 10: During the last 5 minutes, you can prep the ice bath. Fill a large container, big enough to submerge 
             the whole chicken, half with water and 2 pounds of ice

Step 11: To make removing the chicken easier, pour the hot liquid into a separate pot and reserve that to 
             make stock

Step 12: Place the cooked chicken immediately into the ice bath (CAUTION HOT) and cover with ice for at 
             least 30 minutes (1 hour is ideal) *A tip: wear gloves when transferring to ice bath and out, it is an 
             oily mess otherwise*

Step 13: In the mean time, you can cook the rice and have to ready to eat after you carve or cook it before 
             serving. *The sauce and chicken is meant to be served cold*

Step 14: Remove chicken from ice mixture. Carve the bird up however you like, normally it's served bone on
              but I've decided to remove all the meat from the bones to make it easier for people to eat. Can be
              eaten now or placed in refrigerator for later. *Flavor profile changes so play with the hot and cold
              from the rice and chicken respectively to truly unveil the hidden potential in this dish*

After writing this article and thinking back on how much work went into making this seemingly "simple" dish, I realized it wasn't quite that simple after all. While it is far more labor intensive that I had imagined and messier, I am still in love with this dish. I might not have it down right now but I have many years ahead of me to master it!

Hope you enjoy!