Sunday 12 March 2017

Crispy Chinese Roast Chicken 脆皮烧鸡

Inspired by and adapted from Chef & Sommelier's Roast Pork Belly Recipe

This Crispy Chinese Roast Chicken 脆皮烧鸡 is nowhere close to the professional kitchens' methods of making this dish. It does not go through brining, hot and cold bath, many hours of low temperature roasting nor deep frying like the masters. It is just a humble and easy-to-follow home style roast chicken.

I always appreciate easy to remember and simple to make recipes. Therefore, I was so grateful to come across the Roast Pork Belly recipe by Alvin of Chef & Sommelier after I accepted my husband's challenge to make roast pork belly, roast chicken and roast duck. The roast pork that I made last week was a big hit among my family members. It was definitely easy to follow, with very crispy skin and succulent juicy meat. With the same objectives to keep the chicken simple, crispy, tender and tasty, I used the roast pork belly recipe as a basis to kickstart my Crispy Chinese Roast Chicken 脆皮烧鸡 cooking adventure.

As chicken skin is more delicate than pork belly skin, plus both are very different in frame and structure, I had to make some tweaks to prep and cook the chicken. For instance, I used a needle meat tenderiser to score the meat instead of using a knife to make cuts on the skin because I would most likely rip the skin apart with my lousy knife skills. The cooking time would also be different. The chicken would require a shorter time in the oven.

Nevertheless, few things remain the same :

  • Scoring the skin. I experimented by scoring one side of the chicken and not scoring on the other side. The side that I did scoring was more crispy. I only made tiny pricks over the skin. I tried not to puncture into the meat.
  • Simple marinating. I used only salt and vegetarian G-powder to marinate the chicken. The G-powder can be substituted by grounded pepper and five spice powder if you have no access to G-powder. I bought mine from Yue Hwa Chinese Products. You probably need to increase the proportion of salt if you are using grounded pepper with five spice powder instead. This is because G-powder already has sodium content in it.
  • Like the roast pork belly, the chicken must be aired dry in the open or in the refrigerator for at least half a day. The chicken must be dry to achieve crispiness on the skin.
  • Vegetables / Fruits are required in the roasting process to keep the meat juicy and succulent. In Alvin's roast pork belly recipe, we place the pork belly atop the chopped vegetables only at the last hour of roasting. As chicken has lesser fats and that would mean the meat would dry faster, I inserted the vegetables and fruits into the cavity of the chicken right from the beginning. Also, I thought the usage of chopped pineapples was a good choice as I had known enzyme bromelin in fresh pineapple juice to be an effective meat tenderiser. Honestly, I was unsure if it would really work while heating. I was hoping that the pineapples would just help to keep the meat tender during roasting. It should also balance the dish. Plus, the pineapples were so very yummy after the roast. 

Apart from the above mentioned, I did one additional step to ensure the chicken meat would not dry up in the roasting process. I experimented with smearing the inside walls of the cavity with a thin layer of butter. I tossed the chopped vegetables/fruits with butter before inserting them into the cavity. Guess what? The butter was so subtle that nobody realised that I had used it. The meat turned out to be very tender and succulent. The chicken breast meat wasn't tough like a normal roast! 

In case you do not know what is G-Powder. G-powder is not immensely popular in Singapore yet but I see many chefs amongst Chinese countries using it as a seasoning replacement or/and enhancement. Basically, it is a vegetarian seasoning powder that claims to be MSG free, with no artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives. Its ingredients include kelp extracts, yeast extracts, mushroom extracts, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, spice and sea salt. When i was at Yue Hwa departmental store, I saw few G-powder brands. Because it claims to be natural, we need to store it at refrigerator at all times once opened.

Ingredients :
  • 1 fresh kampong/free range chicken (I used a 2 kg chicken. Bear in mind that the chicken would shrink a fair bit after the roast. Avoid using a very small sized chicken. If you really have to use a smaller chicken, shorten the roasting time and lower the temperature so that the meat would not be too overcooked and  turn tough.)
  • 1 tbsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp vegetarian G-powder (or to taste)(can use grounded pepper with five spice powder if you do not have G-powder)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 carrot (chopped to finger size)
  • 1 slice fresh pineapple (chopped to wedges)
  • 2-3 pcs shitake mushrooms (optional)(to add more fragrance)

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon) 

Method :
  1. Wash/clean chicken and pat dry. Do not chop off the head of the chicken. Keep it during the roasting to minimise excessive loss of juices/moisture from the cavity.
  2. Use a needle tenderiser (or fork) to score the the chicken surface. Do not have to puncture/pierce into the meat. Try not to tear the skin. 
  3. Mix salt and G-powder or grounded pepper with five spice powder in a bowl. 
  4. Marinate the chicken by rubbing the mixed salt/powder on the surface of chicken and inside the cavity. Adjust the quantity of salt/powder in accordance to the size of the chicken.
  5. Place the chicken on a cooling rack (so that the skin and meat could be kept dry without being in contact with the base of the tray/container). Insert a tray underneath the cooling rack to receive droplets from the chicken during the air drying process.   
  6. Leave the chicken to air dry in the open or in the refrigerator for at least half a day (do not cover with lid).
  7. When time's due, pre-heat oven at 200 degrees celsius (200C) or 392 degrees fahrenheit (392F). Chicken should be at room temperature.
  8. Set oven at grill mode. Fan assisted.
  9. Get ready chopped vegetables/fruits and butter. 
  10. Smear 50% of butter evenly on the inside walls of the cavity. Do not smear butter on the skin.
  11. Toss the other 50% butter with the chopped vegetables/fruits.
  12. Insert chopped vegetables/fruits into the cavity.
  13. Try to position chicken in a way to minimise juice/liquid from gushing out of the cavity during the roasting process. This would retain moisture for the chicken meat.
  14. Roast chicken in oven for 15 minutes at 200C or 392F. Use first rack from bottom.
  15. When time's due, rotate (not flip) the chicken and roast for another 15 minutes at the same temperature. Do not attempt to flip the chicken in the whole roasting process as you may end up tearing apart the chicken skin while flipping. Rotating the tray is good enough. Just ensure that there is a cooling rack to isolate the chicken and the tray to achieve a more even roasting.
  16. When the next 15 minutes is up, reduce temperature of oven to 160C or 320F.
  17. Rotate tray again and continue to roast at the lower temperature for 45 minutes.
  18. When the 45 minutes is up, increase temperature of oven to 230C or 446F.
  19. Rotate tray again and continue to roast for 10-15 minutes.
  20. By the end of 10-15 minutes, the chicken should be fully cooked and crispy on the skin. You should hear the "krak, krak" sound when you lightly hit the skin with a spoon.
  21. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  22. Remove roasted vegetables/fruits from the cavity. They would be so juicy and yummy by then.  
  23. Chop or cut off the chicken head and feet before serve. If you had left the chicken feet on (without chopping off prior to roasting), the chicken feet would be so crispy that the bones could be eaten. If you do not want such crispy (and maybe burnt) chicken feet, just wrap them with a foil during roasting. 

Note : Roasting time and results may vary due to size of chicken and different oven makes. Do adjust accordingly. As heat distribution for every oven varies, you may find certain parts of the chicken more burnt. If you find any part of the skin starting to burn (usually at the top), cut a piece of foil and cover over that portion will do.

(scroll to bottom of page, click on "Print" or "PDF" icon for printer friendly recipe)

There's one thing we realised when savouring the homemade  Crispy Chinese Roast Chicken 脆皮烧鸡 - The chicken could be deboned very effortlessly. The meat was still very tender and moist. And would not stick to the bones. Do not expect the skin to be as crispy as the roast pork belly because chicken skin is much thinner. Overall, we are very happy with this roasted bird. In fact, my parents have already requested for a second chicken to be done soon! 


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