The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.
Let’s pretend we’re pals and we happen to be chatting on the phone about our failed New Year’s resolutions, the boy next door, and how to use up the chicken in your freezer. Rather than a ho-hum roast, I would say, “How about turning to Taiwanese drunken chicken (醉雞), which is brothy and fragrant and guarantees leftovers you actually want to eat?”
The beauty of this recipe is that the broth does all the work.
With roots from China, specifically Shaoxing, a city in the Zhejiang province, the dish makes full use of the famous Shaoxing rice wine, commonly used in Chinese cooking. For the uninitiated, Shaoxing wine is the star of the show in drunken chicken, but if you see bottles labeled “rice cooking wine” without the Shaoxing designation, they will work too.
You can find riffs on drunken chicken all around Asia. It’s most commonly made with the whole bird, cut up and sold by the piece in restaurants and street food stalls. My family always makes drunken chicken using the whole chicken because we are a family of eaters, but the same process and technique can be used for whatever cuts you have.
My favorite is boneless chicken thighs, which can be rolled up ballotine-style and cut into thick slices. But if aesthetics mean little to you, as they do to me, you can swap in any cut of chicken you may have in the fridge: Drumsticks, breasts, and even wings (a great little snack found at night markets in Taiwan) all result in a stellar dish.
In a medium saucepan, place 3 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs and cover with cold water. Add in any aromatics you have in your kitchen, like the green bits of scallions, a knob of ginger, and goji berries and star anise if you have them on hand. Add a few big pinches (about 1 tsp.) of salt, a splash (about 1 Tbsp.) of Shaoxing wine. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce it to a simmer. Simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes. At this stage, in Asia, many cooks take out the chicken and plunge it in cold water, for rarer meat, but resting in the hot broth ensures it’s cooked thoroughly without a hint of pink—turn off the heat, put the lid on, and let the chicken rest for another 10 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when you cut through the meat and the juices run clear. Pour 1 cup Shaoxing wine into the broth, put the lid back on, and place in the fridge overnight. When ready to serve, cut the chicken into pieces, generously drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with salt. Serve cold or at room temperature with the broth and some steamed rice.