Cookbook Recipe #10: Chinese Roasted Chicken Leg (紅燒雞腿飯)

I’ve now posted about this in so many different spaces and venues, but I feel like I should publish it on my own namesake blog at least once. It’s been posted on my Instagram (@yehhungryhere) a couple times, on the Taipei American School Alumni Newsletter, and on Facebook. To be fair, it wasn’t until there was large demand for a scaled-down recipe for the Chicken Leg on the TAS Alumni Facebook Group, that I had decided to try my hand at it.

For years, maybe even decades, students have been fed quite well at Taipei American School. For myself, I enjoyed both the Western and Chinese entrees, the pizza bar, and the snack bar quite often (as one can imagine, I avoided the salad bar for the better part of my years there). I recall growing up, hearing about the horror stories of American cafeteria food and just being so happy and pleased about the offerings at my school. However, there is one dish that reigns supreme at the lunch room, one could argue that it even has a “cult following”. Each year in January, when alums would return to visit home during winter break, TAS would often host a panel for parents and juniors and seniors. They would “compensate” them by offering them free lunch, of which it always turned out to be the Chinese Roasted Chicken Leg.

The Chinese Roasted Chicken Leg or affectionately known as the “Mr. Chicken Leg”, was a soy sauce braised chicken leg served over a bed of rice doused in sauce. It was savory, rich, and many (including myself), would try and get seconds. It’s a fairly simple dish, and to be honest, doesn’t require much precise measuring, but as with much of my cooking, revolves around tasting. The marinade itself is quite salty, but as such is required for the flavors to penetrate the chicken. his dish represents a major step in my foray into cooking the food that I grew up with. For years, I was intimidated by the flexibility and malleability of Chinese food. Only recently have I developed the confidence to trust my skills and my ability to make the food that I love. The other dishes that accompanied were quite simple. A spinach and garlic stir fry, a fish sauce and zucchini stir fry and of course tomato and egg scramble.

Ingredients:

The ingredients below are for 6 portions. As I mention above, my cooking is almost never super precise, so please take my measurements with a “grain of salt” (pun intended).

Chicken – I use 6 leg quarters. You can use whichever chicken parts you like, but this being a “chicken leg” recipe, I think leg quarters gives the most meat. A drumstick would just be far too little meat. The one issue with the leg quarters, is that there are quite a bit of bones, especially towards the end of the quarter where it connects to the ribs. I have deboned these bits to use for stock in the future, but that’s personal preference.
Soy Sauce – Ok, so in my recipe I use three different types of soy sauce. You may wonder, what does it matter? Why would I just own three different types of soy sauce? Well, each different soy sauce has a different function, and contribute differently in the recipe. For generic soy sauce (I use Kikkoman’s or Lee Kum Kee), you will need 1/2 of a cup.
Light Soy Sauce – Light Soy Sauce, much like Japanese light soy sauce, it is mainly used for cooking and seasoning. It is far saltier than generic soy sauce. For this recipe use 1/3 of a cup. In this case, I bought Lee Kum Kee brand.
Dark Soy Sauce – Dark Soy Sauce, is mainly used for the color. Use 1/2 of a cup. Same here.
Chinese Vinegar – I use Chinkiang Brand and only a splash.
Chinese Cooking Wine – Once again just a splash
Sesame Oil – 2-3 Tablespoons
Oyster Sauce – 2 Tablespoons
Shacha Sauce – This is the umami bomb, it’s Taiwanese BBQ Sauce and its a grainy thick consistency. I use a spoonful, and that’s plenty of flavor. In my picture, I used the spicy version, but feel free to use whichever you prefer. Buy the “Bull’s Head” brand though.
Rock Sugar – Use a handful or so
Scallions – A bunch
Garlic: 3-4 cloves
Ginger: Five 1/2″ pieces

Preparation:

It is your choice should you decide to debone your leg quarters. Sometimes I’m not lazy and I do take off the rib ends and cut through some of the tendons, but sometimes I prefer to be lazy and just leave it as is. It also really depends on your audience. If you’re feeding adults, I’m sure they’re able to figure it out. If not, then do as you would.

Method:

Step 1: Prepare the marinade by combining all the ingredients above (excluding the chicken) into a pot and bring to boil for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, it should be salty and sweet. I tend to have it a bit saltier because the chicken will absorb the flavor. Additionally, you may later need to add water to have enough marinade so that all the chicken is covered.
Step 2: Cool the marinade to room temperature (this can take up to 45 minutes to an hour) before adding the chicken. Mix well and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator anywhere from 4 hours to 24 hours.
Step 3: Set the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a heavy-bottomed pan (such as a cast-iron pan or dutch oven). Remove chicken from marinade and place in the pan. You can cook in multiple batches if the pan is too crowded). Cook for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165F. You can also cut one of the chicken pieces to see if the juices run clear. Rotate the pan 180 degrees at 15 minute intervals while cooking.
Step 4: Strain and boil marinade (this will be used for sauce). Taste for seasoning.
Step 5: After 30 minutes, remove chicken and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving
over hot rice and sauce splashed on top.



Feel free to save the marinade for other dishes, freeze or toss.

Let me know if you enjoyed this recipe, and whether or not you made an adjustments yourself!

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