This recipe is based on a classic Cantonese dish in which a whole chicken is simmered ever so gently in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and Chinese rice wine. The idea translates extremely well to chicken pieces, but you do need to cook them very gently or they will be tough.
5 cm (2 inch) piece ginger
2½ tablespoons peanut oil
1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 dried chillies
2 x 2 cm (¾ inch) wide strips of orange zest
1½ star anise
1 cinnamon stick
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) chicken stock
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) light soy sauce
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) Chinese rice wine
65 g (2¼ oz/ 1/3 cup) crushed rock sugar
3 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
2 spring onions (scallions), thinly diagonally sliced
Steamed rice and baby bok choy (pak choy), to serve
1. Use a sharp knife to cut the ginger into very fine julienne.
2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the chicken pieces, in batches, turning once, for 5 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a medium saucepan.
3. Pour off the excess fat from the frying pan, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Add the ginger, garlic and dried chillies and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until aromatic.
4. Add the ginger mixture, orange zest, star anise, cinnamon, stock, soy sauce, rice wine and sugar to the chicken in the saucepan. Bring slowly to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside, covered. Pour the cooking liquid into a bowl and set aside for about 15 minutes or until it has cooled slightly and the fat has risen to the surface.
6. Skim the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid, then strain through a sieve lined with muslin (cheesecloth). Discard all the solids, except the star anise. Return the strained liquid and star anise to a clean medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
7. Combine the cornflour with 1½ tablespoons of water and mix until smooth. Stirring constantly, add to the liquid in the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until thickened slightly.
8. Return the chicken to the pan and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until just heated through. Serve the chicken and the sauce in shallow bowls, scattered with the spring onions and accompanied by the rice and bok choy.