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Old 10-12-2006, 07:00 AM   #1
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Yu Xiang Ji Si (Chinese Spicy Chicken Slivers)

I ate this delicious dish a lot when I lived in China. Somehow I left without ever getting the recipe. Neither of my Chinese cookbooks have one, and I have not been able to find a decent recipe on the web. Working with the one recipe available online (in which the proportions are way off) and my own knowledge of Chinese cooking, I came up with the following. I noticed several requests for a recipe for Yu Xiang Ji Si, so I wanted to post it. I went ahead and wrote in great detail for those uninitiated to Chinese cooking.

Yu Xiang Ji Si means literally "Fish Fragrance Chicken Slivers", but don't worry if that doesn't sound tasty - there's not a trace of fish flavor in it. It is so named, they say, because the same flavorings are used to cook fish. This dish can also be made with pork slivers, in which case it is called Yu Xiang Rou Si (rou means meat). If you want to make it with pork, I would add a tablespoon of soy sauce to the sauce mix. You wouldn't want to add the soy sauce to the chicken dish because it would ruin the color, and color is a huge part of this dish, as well as uniformity of the sliver sizes.

BTW, if you order this dish in American Chinese restaurants (which I can't bear to do because the food is sooooo different than in China), it's called Chicken in Garlic sauce. In China it can be made with garlic, but often isn't. And no way is it as sweet as they make it in America, or as saucy.

Hope this helps somebody!

Yu Xiang Ji Si

This famous Sichuan dish is cooked in the typical stir-fry way: much time is spent on the laborious chopping and pre-frying. The final cooking time is only about a minute of mad tossing at high heat mixing all the prepped food together with the sauce.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 8 g dried wood ears (black fungus), maybe 5 wood ears. Pour boiling water over them and leave them to soak for about 1 hour, then cut into 1/16” strips.
  • 250 g, 9-10 oz. (2 large or 3 small,) chicken breasts, cut into slivers 1/16” by 1” (see below)
  • 1 carrot, 100-125 g or 4 oz, cut into matchstick slivers same size as chicken slivers (hint: use half a huge carrot that is uniform in size for easy slicing)
  • 1 medium sized green pepper, quartered then sliced into same size slivers
  • 3-8 dried red chilies depending on their size, degree of heat, and your taste
  • 2 scallions, chopped fine
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Chinese cooking sherry or equivalent
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp hot bean paste
  • 1 tsp sugar or Splenda
  • 1 Tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • vegetable oil for frying
Preparation
1. Soak the wood ears if you haven’t already.
2. As you slice the chicken breasts into slivers, chill a bowl in the freezer. To cut chicken: (Works easiest with half-thawed breasts, but you can do them raw.) First cut into slices 1/16” wide. Then lay 2 or 3 slices on top of each other and sliver into 1/16” strips. Cut in half so approximately 1” long.
3. Put chicken slivers in chilled bowl. Thoroughly stir in 1 tablespoon of sherry and ½ teaspoon salt. Then thoroughly stir in the tablespoon of cornstarch. Lastly, thoroughly stir in 1 tablespoon of oil. This is preparing what is called slippery coating. It makes the chicken a very soft texture. Place in refrigerator while you do the rest of the slicing and pre-frying.
4. With scissors, snip the dried hot peppers into ¼” ringlets. When all are snipped, remove the pepper ringlets from the bowl you snipped them into and discard the seeds which have fallen out.
5. Mix the following together in a bowl to make the sauce that will be added to the final fry up: Hot bean paste, Chinkiang vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1 teaspoon sugar or Splenda.
6. Place all ingredients close to stove to grab quickly (Timing is everything in stir-frying. Overcooking ruins the dish.)
7. Stir-fry carrots in 1-2 Tbsp oil over medium heat until almost tender (this will take a few minutes,) remove.
8. Stir-fry green peppers in 1 Tbsp oil over high heat for 6-10 seconds – just until their color brightens; remove.
9. Stir-fry wood ear slivers in 1-2 Tbsp oil for 1 minute, remove. (You can put these three vegetables on the same dinner plate as you remove them for speedy re-entry to the almost completed dish at the end, but don’t put them on top of each other. Protect the green pepper from being further cooked by another hot veggie on top of it.)
10. Fry dried chilis until they start to darken (you’ll want the exhaust fan on and the windows open if you have more than three!); remove.
Hint: The above steps can be done in advance. The final cooking takes less than five minutes and should be done just before serving.
11. Add scallion and ginger to the now spicy hot oil and fry 5-10 seconds, then add chicken slivers. Toss without stopping. The cornstarch will stick to the bottom of the frying pan. Don’t worry about it for now. When the slivers change color and are almost all white, add the sauce, stir fry for 30 seconds to mix, then add the sesame oil and dump in the green pepper, carrots, shredded wood ears. Toss until all are coated with the sauce, another 30 seconds AT MOST, using your spatula to scrap off what’s stuck to the pan to include in the sauce. Remove immediately to a prepared serving platter and sprinkle the top with the fried dried chili pepper rings.

Voila! You are a Chinese cook!

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Old 11-16-2006, 03:41 AM   #2
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I've never had it with chicken before, but I'm seriously burnt out on the pork version. It was one of the first dishes I learned to consistently order, and ordered way too much of it.

I'm living in Shanghai and I couldn't imagine it being any sweeter, but Shanghai is known for having sweet food.
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Old 11-16-2006, 05:53 AM   #3
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I know what you mean; I lived in Shanghai for five years, and that was the main beef I had with the cooking (besides sometimes being a shade bland for my taste) - it was unnecessarily (imho) sweet. But there are some outstanding local specialties that I still miss though I left there long ago. Most especially the Jia Xiang Zongzi. Have you had those, Kungfueats? The sticky rice stuffed with a piece of pork (usually a combination of lean and fat), wrapped in a bamboo leaf and steamed? Oh man, I love those! And then of course, the Nanxiang Xaiolongbao (steamed dumplings with a burst of soup in them) at the famous place at YuYuan...or just about anywhere else in the city. Oh - and shengjian bao! I never found their equivalent anywhere else in China. Kind of like guotie (potstickers), but with a raised dough, I'm assuming from baking powder? like the big baozi, but little, and fried on the bottom. And I preferred the Shanghai local restaurants dipping sauce for Mongolian Hot Pot (Shuai Yang Rou) to any other city I've had it in.

Whew! Got that all out of me! I've wanted to say that for years.
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Old 11-16-2006, 06:06 AM   #4
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That is a great sounding recipe but I especially appreciate the detail in the explanation. Thank you.
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Old 11-16-2006, 06:16 AM   #5
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Thanks; glad it's helpful. I personally enjoy cookbooks, or recipes, written by people who can teach, so that you don't just get a recipe but grow as a cook. I have to be careful, though, or I can go on ad infinitum. Just now in re-reading the recipe I wrote, I was tempted to add two comments to further clarify. One was to explain what would be the equivalent of a Chinese cooking sherry, which would simply be any cooking sherry! Or even a white wine that wasn't dry if you didn't have sherry on hand. Nevermind what the other one was...it was overkill.
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Old 11-16-2006, 07:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Can'tStopCooking
But there are some outstanding local specialties that I still miss though I left there long ago. Most especially the Jia Xiang Zongzi. Have you had those, Kungfueats? The sticky rice stuffed with a piece of pork (usually a combination of lean and fat), wrapped in a bamboo leaf and steamed? Oh man, I love those!
Can'tstop, is the Jia Xiang Zongzi shaped like a pyramid?
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Old 11-16-2006, 08:41 PM   #7
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The Jia Xiang Zongzi is in fact shaped like a pyramid and as Can'tstop mentioned they are often filled with a bit of fatty pork, but they can also be filled with dou xia (red bean paste), xian ya dan (salted duck egg yolk), zao zi (jujube) and a few other things. There is actually a very interesting folk tale behind this food. And even a holiday (Dragon Boat festival), on May 5th of the lunar calendar.

And I'd agree with Can'tstop, they are really tasty, the rice ends up having such a unique flavor to it.
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Old 11-17-2006, 04:14 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kungfueats
The Jia Xiang Zongzi is in fact shaped like a pyramid and as Can'tstop mentioned they are often filled with a bit of fatty pork, but they can also be filled with dou xia (red bean paste), xian ya dan (salted duck egg yolk), zao zi (jujube) and a few other things. There is actually a very interesting folk tale behind this food. And even a holiday (Dragon Boat festival), on May 5th of the lunar calendar.

And I'd agree with Can'tstop, they are really tasty, the rice ends up having such a unique flavor to it.
In Singapore we call them 'Bak Chang' or Rice Dumpling for the pork version and 'Kee Chang', Sweet Dumpling for the plain, red bean paste filling etc. I prepare these dumplings every year during the Dragon Boat Festival. Made up of glutinuous rice with a spicy meat and chestnut filling, the dumplings are wrapped in bamboo leaves before putting in a big pot of boiling water to cook for about 2 hours. Dumpling wrapping is considered an art as you need certain skill to wrap them otherwise you will end up with a pot of mushy mess! Properly made they are simply delicious!
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Old 11-17-2006, 10:31 AM   #9
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Hi Boufa, in Hokkien it's called Machang or Bachang. I make my own here in Bangkok because the Machang they sell here tastes different from what I was used to having, growing up in Manila. Would you care to exchange recipes to compare? :-) I can wrap them in bamboo leaves but my pyramid comes out smaller than the ones that are sold in Chinese delis. I wonder how they wrap them like that?

Kungfueats, what's the folk tale behind the Jia Xiang Zongzi? As this is one of my favorite treats, I'm very interested...Thanks!
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Old 11-17-2006, 10:59 AM   #10
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Chopstix, my recipe is more Nonya (Peranakan) influenced, which is very popular in Singapore. The commercial ones are pretty good too. I am familiar with the Hokkien type as a girlfriend of mine makes them using 'khong bak'. To wrap nice big dumplings, your bamboo leaves have to be very big, otherwise overlap two leaves and fold into a conical shape before putting your rice and filling. The Nonya wives use a special type of screwpine or pandan leaves that are wide and very fragrant. However, this type of leaves are not easily available and are difficult to handle due to their thickness. When tying the dumplings, be sure to use raffia string rather than the ones made out of dried leaves as they hold better during boiling.
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