Saturday, May 29, 2010

Liuyang black bean chicken (liu yang dou chi ji)

Tonight we're having four friends to dinner, so I'm attempting to execute four Chinese dishes at the same time, including one I've never made before: Fuchsia Dunlop's Liuyang black bean chicken. This dish makes generous use of the richly savory black fermented beans, a specialty of Liuyang in Hunan province. I actually bought two incorrect products by mistake before triumphantly locating the beans on my third attempt at the Chinese grocery. They came in a little bag, not a jar, labeled "salted black beans." These are actually soybeans preserved in salt, not the black beans you know from Mexican food, and need to be rinsed before use for cooking.

1. Cut a pound of boned, skin-on chicken thighs into bite-size chunks. Put them in a bowl with 1 T. of light soy sauce and mix well to marinate.

2. Peel the cloves from a whole head of garlic, cutting any very large ones in half. Peel and thinly slice a 2-inch piece of ginger. Cut the green parts of four scallions into 1 1/2-inch lengths. Rinse 4 T. black fermented beans in a strainer.

3. Heat 2 cups of peanut oil for deep frying to 350-400 degrees. Add the chicken and stir-fry until it has changed color, then remove from the wok with a slotted spoon and allow the oil to return to 350-400. Return the chicken to the hot oil and deep-fry again until tinged golden. Remove and set aside.

4. Drain off all but 3 T. of oil from the wok, then return it to a medium flame. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry a few minutes until they are fragrant and the garlic cloves are tender. Add the black beans and stir-fry until fragrant, adding a splash of Shaoxing wine. Now shake in some red chilli flakes and stir-fry a few moments until they have lent their heat and red color to the oil.

5. Return the chicken to the wok and toss it in the fragrant oil, splashing in 2 T. clear rice vinegar and salting to taste. When everything is sizzling, throw in the scallions, and stir a few times until barely cooked. Turn off the heat, stir in 1 T. sesame oil, and serve.

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