Ginger chicken in white wine stew is a variation of a classic traditional Malaysian-Chinese dish: Ginger wine chicken. In the original classic recipe, this dish is made with chicken on the bone that’s slowly boiled in a soup made with a combination of strongly aromatic ginger and high-quality Chinese rice wine.
A Nourishing Tonic
It is usually consumed as a nourishing tonic for postnatal care, or to boost maiden strength, or, because of its body warming properties, simply as comfort food on colder evenings.
Every grandma, auntie and distant cousin would have a recipe that they’d swear by and stick to. Some would insist that it’s supposed to be sweet-tasting, while some others would oppose that with the stance that it’s not supposed to have any sweetness in it at all.
Some prefer it extra spicy, and some prefer it to be more sophisticated with the usage of medicinal herbs. Then there might be some others who have personal recipes that suggest that they may need to see a counsellor at an alcoholic recovery clinic.
The thing is, almost every single one of these are correct traditional recipes developed and inherited over multiple generations within each family circle. Each one has different nuances. Some are quick to cook. Some are quite the opposite.
And if you have never had it before, the soupy dish can and does look quite bland without giving any visual cues that it is very appetizing at all. You will have to smell it.
So when someone asked me to do it, I got a bit concerned. I know I can make a version that I like, but how am I going to be able to make it look pretty and Instagramable? How am I going to not accidentally incur the wrath of someone’s tiger mom?
So, instead of doing it the traditional way using a cocktail of different Chinese rice wines, a European white wine will be used instead. With a different alcohol profile, it brings a different prospect altogether.
As I thought more about it, I started to remember things like chef Keith Floyd on British telly getting sloshed while cooking regional recipes involving regional wine and of summer parched vineyards in the rolling valleys that I will never get to work on. Of sheep staring at you while looking like they are chewing gum. Of happiness and sunshine.
So, here’s a recipe that involves a combination of traditional East Asian elements, half a free-range chicken and an easy to drink sweet and fizzy Italian wine, the Moscato, all being slowly cooked using the Dutch oven technique. A dish that might remind somebody of Chinese ginger wine chicken, but not, because of the underlying flavour of pears and a slight hint of butter.
A modern, urban Malaysian fusion dish that can only be homemade.
- 500g of Half free-range kampung chicken.
- 100g of Old Bentong ginger, after skinned and cut into slices (Want more flavour? Add more).
- 100g fresh young ginger, skinned and julienned.
- 1 Peckham pear.
- 1 Gong pear, small,
- 2 tbsp of goji berry (or just grab a fistful. The bigger your hand, the more you can grab, but don’t be greedy. They are mostly to add colour to the bland looking dish.)
- 50g Red dates pitted.
- 5g Dongguai (a few pieces).
- 2 champagne flute glasses of Italian Moscato white wine. This one is lightly fizzy, sweet, and easy to go down, with a fruity palette.
- 20g salted butter.
- 2 small bowls water.
1. Julienne the young ginger. Slice the old ginger. You don’t have to be precise. I know I wasn’t.
2. Soak and marinate the chicken in one glass of wine together with the sliced Bentong ginger. The longer you soak the more drunken the chicken gets.
3. Preheat the oven at 200C.
4. Cut the fruits into big chunky cubes. Too small and they will turn to mush and melt away.
5. Generously cover the surface of a shallow non-stick frying pan with oil. We are going to cook the julienned young ginger. Heat the oil, reduce the heat then throw in all the young ginger. Please watch out for oil splatters. When fragrant, put in the cut fruits. Put butter in and let it coat all the fruits (if you like the flavour of butter to be ‘louder’ in your food, do add more butter). When that’s done, pour in 1 glass of wine. Let simmer for a few minutes. Don’t overcook or the fruits will turn mushy. We don’t want that.
6. Remove fruits from the pan. Keep both aside separately to be used later. You may snack on a couple of the fruits but not all. Do not discard anything.
7. In a big enough saucepan or pot that can fit the chicken but still small enough to fit into the oven, heat some oil, but not too hot. We will be frying the wine-soaked old ginger in this. Be careful when the wet ginger goes into the oil. (Please don’t throw away the wine that is used to marinate the chicken and ginger, we need it. We need it, we need it.)
8. When the ginger starts to turn steamy and fragrant, put the chicken in, followed by the wine and the dates. Smell that. When it starts boiling, add in the wine that was used to cook the fruits. Add in two small bowls of water. When it boils, reduce heat to lowest possible, add in 1 teaspoon of salt and let it simmer with the lid on, for a minute or so.
9. Turn off heat, remove the pot from the hob, and chuck it into the oven. Make sure there are no plastic parts on the pot or saucepan. Leave it for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 150C.
10. After an hour, remove the pot from oven, add in goji berry and dongguai. Put the pot back in, lid covered. Reduce heat to 100C. Leave it for another 30 minutes to an hour. If you have all the time in the world, let it cook in the oven for even longer. It’s up to you.
11. Remove pot from oven, open the lid and put the cooked fruits in. Put some mint leaves in too. Serve.
12. Alternatively, you could skip steps 9 to 11 and just let the chicken and wine cook at the lowest possible heat on the hob for 1.5 to 2 hours. Just watch out for liquid reduction and ensure the bottom isn’t burning any stuck food. The resulting texture shouldn’t be too much different. The idea is to slow cook the chicken without losing flavour in the bird and the soupy wine sauce.
Just remember, if you do a lot of taste checks throughout, you will very likely be quite tipsy by the time the chicken’s ready. Have fun cooking the Ginger Chicken in White Wine Stew.
*You could also add in different types of herbs like rosemary and thyme. Experiment!