Soup up your recipe with chicken

REFRESHING: Lemon soup with sasami chicken and cucumber.
Soup up your recipe with chicken

CHICKEN VERSION: The braised meat goes well with frisee lettuce


    Aug 01, 2016

    Soup up your recipe with chicken

    IT IS always handy to add new ways of enjoying chicken to your cooking repertoire, for it is one of the most versatile meats around.

    Here are two takes on classic dishes that make use of chicken - a chicken soup made "sour" with lemon, and buns filled with braised chicken instead of pork belly that is typically used in Chinese kou rou bao (pork belly buns).




    A cold soup is an excellent dish for humid weather.

    A lemon soup with sasami chicken breast meat and cucumber, as prepared by cooking expert Maki Watanabe, is refreshing to look at with its cool-coloured ingredients and clear soup.

    The soup tastes sour but also appetisingly well-seasoned.

    Lemon and soup is, to say the least, an unusual combination. "People this season enjoy anything refreshing, just wait and see," Ms Watanabe said with a smile as she began slicing cucumber.

    She trimmed the ends off the vegetable and cut it lengthwise in two, removing the soggy seeded parts.

    "I do this in order to preserve the cucumber's crisp texture," she said.

    Ms Watanabe then sprinkled salt on the sliced cucumber and rubbed it in to further remove any moisture.

    Chicken breast tenderloins, called sasami in Japanese, are a good addition to a cold soup as the meat has a light taste and is not greasy. Potato starch is sprinkled over the meat to tenderise its surface.

    "Don't sprinkle on too much, though, as the meat will get sticky," Ms Watanabe said.

    The meat cooks quickly so the soup should be boiled for only 1½ minutes, while skimming any foam off the surface.

    Grated ginger and cucumber are added before turning off the heat to release their flavours. Finally, lemon juice is added to the soup, which is chilled well in the refrigerator before being served with a few lemon slices.

    "Make the soup in the morning and keep it in the refrigerator until lunch time or dinner time," Ms Watanabe advised.

    Lemon soup with sasami chicken and cucumber

    (Serves two)




    3 sasami chicken breast tenderloins

    1 cucumber

    2 Tbs lemon juice

    4 slices lemon

    ½ knob of fresh ginger

    500ml dashi stock of kombu and bonito flakes

    2 Tbs potato starch

    1 Tbs sake

    ½ tsp salt




    Cut the cucumber lengthwise in two.

    Use a small spoon to remove the seeded part before slicing diagonally. Add half the salt to the cucumber and rub until tender. Remove any liquid.

    Trim the chicken breasts and cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle potato starch lightly on the meat.

    Add the sake to the dashi and pour into a pot to boil over medium heat.

    Add the chicken when the dashi starts to simmer and cook for about 1½ minutes. Add rest of the salt, grated ginger and cucumber and turn off the heat.

    Add the lemon juice and let the soup cool before refrigerating.

    Serve with sliced lemon.








    I USED to pooh-pooh the idea of using anything but pork belly for making kou rou bao - braised pork belly buns in Mandarin or kong bak bao in Teochew.

    But I finally decided to try a chicken version, which turned out better than I expected.

    Slathered in a thick luscious gravy, the braised chicken goes very well with frisee lettuce leaves.

    I also like stuffing the buns with coriander and spring onions.

    Upping the amount of greens helps keep the dish from feeling over-cloying.

    Chicken also cooks much quicker so it means less time hovering over the stove.

    I choose to use deboned chicken quarters because the meat is more tender.

    Chicken bak bao


    12 mantou (steamed buns)

    1 head of frisee lettuce

    6 deboned chicken quarters (with skins)

    4 garlic cloves

    10g ginger

    15g galangal

    10g spring onion

    10g fresh coriander

    3 pieces danggui (Chinese angelica)

    3 pieces huai shan (Chinese yam)

    3 pieces yuzhu (Solomon's Seal)

    1 piece dangshen (codonopsis root)

    1 piece Mandarin orange peel

    3 red dates

    5 cloves

    1 stick cinnamon

    3 cardamom

    2 star anise

    1 litre of water

    1 Tbs potato starch mixed with 1 Tbs

    of water

    3 Tbs sugar

    5 Tbs dark soya sauce

    2 Tbs light soya sauce

    1 level tsp salt




    Rinse the cardamom, cloves, star anise and cinnamon. Dry-fry until fragrant.

    Set aside.

    Bring the water to boil.

    Place the danggui, huai shan, yuzhu, dangshen, orange peel and red dates in water and boil for 20 minutes.

    Halve each of the chicken quarters, keeping the skins.

    In a sturdy pot, spread the sugar in an even layer. Heat over low heat.

    Once the sugar caramelises, add the chicken pieces to brown.

    Add the boiled herbs and water.

    Add the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and star anise.

    Add the garlic, ginger, galangal and some of the coriander and spring onion.

    Add the dark and light soya sauces and salt.

    Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or until the meat is tender.

    Remove the meat from the pot.

    Strain the mixture, reserving the braising liquid.

    Bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the potato starch and water mixture to make it thicken. Use this as gravy.

    Assemble the buns by putting one piece of chicken, frisee leaves, fresh coriander and spring onions in each.