A dish to soothe a frazzled mind 💆🏻♀️
I can’t believe we’re halfway through February - the year’s whizzing by so quickly for me! For those of you who are new here, Singapore Noodles is not my full-time job. I work at a farmhouse cooking school in Daylesford, providing support for events and cooking classes. Other times, I am working on Seasonings Magazine, an independent publication dedicated to festival food culture, and my second cookbook (to be released 2023). Just last week, I’ve also taken on another opportunity - cooking plant-forward meals for school children, and educating disadvantaged youths on preparing nutritious food at home.
With all these commitments + other freelance work going on, I crave for simplicity - nothing soothes a frazzled mind more than a simple meal. And there’s nothing more elemental than a plate of white-cut chicken.
It is so interesting how universally beloved white-cut chicken is. A common kitchen mantra that you might be familiar with is ‘more colour more flavour’ - for that reason, techniques like poaching and steaming tend to be less celebrated or talked about, compared to searing and roasting. I love steaming particularly - it accentuates the natural sweetness of whatever you’re cooking, be it meat or vegetable, and it is a gentle way of cooking that promises succulence.
I bought the smallest chicken I could find (better skin to meat ratio) and rubbed it all over with salt and glutinous rice wine inside and out. The wine was a gift from the good folks at W Rice Wine and I really love it (not a plug!) - been using it in dishes where good quality wine really makes a difference (i.e dishes with only a handful of ingredients). Stuffed the chicken’s cavity with spring onion and ginger, and let it sit for an hour or so to marinate before steaming.
To go with the chicken, a ginger dipping sauce, inspired by Soup Restaurant. This sauce is the bomb. If you live in Singapore but have not tried it, do yourself a favour! It makes even simple blanched vegetables taste good. While scallion ginger sauce seems to be growing in popularity in the West, Soup Restaurant interestingly does not use spring onions, at least not the greens! This time, I used a blend of spring onion whites, garlic, and ginger.
After a brief stir-fry in the pan and addition of sesame oil and juices from the steamed chicken, it becomes a super-umami sauce. I finally feel like I’ve nailed it!
To go with the chicken and ginger dipping sauce, some iceberg lettuce is a must!! The only reason why I didn’t use it was because our garden was chockfull of another type of lettuce. But if you are making this dish at home, please use iceberg! The crispness and freshness of the iceberg is the perfect counterpoint to the spicy kick of the ginger sauce. This is how this dish, said to be a traditional dish prepared by Samsui women, is served at Soup restaurant.
To complete the meal, I blanched an assortment of vegetables, cooked rice, and made a quick soup with the spring onion & ginger stuffing and the chicken carcass.
Rebecca Koh (whom I previously interviewed on the podcast) told me that her grandfather used to marinate chicken with the ginger paste, steam the chicken, and reserve the aromatic steamed juices for dipping or spooning over rice. Can’t wait to try this variation one day!
Steamed Chicken with Samsui Dipping Sauce