liangban ji 凉拌鸡
There is no master recipe for cold-dressed chicken: every cook makes it differently. What all the variations have in common is a backbone of savouriness from either soy sauce or a specially seasoned chicken stock, a hint of sweetness and a deep, satisfying halo of red chilli oil. Often, there will also be a spritz of vinegar, a tingle of Sichuan pepper and a touch of fragrant sesame oil. Sesame paste can be added for body and fragrance (I sometimes also use smooth peanut butter, although the Sichuanese don’t). Some cooks like to add chopped raw garlic or pickled chillies, while others toss the chicken with chopped spring onion or Chinese celery. As you will have gathered, this is a recipe to be relaxed about, so please use the following version as a guide and feel free to improvise.
In Sichuan, rustic restaurants will chop a whole chicken into pieces on the bone, while smarter establishments will cut boned meat into slices, strips or slivers. I’ve suggested using boneless meat, but if you’d like to tackle the whole bird with a sharp chopping cleaver, please go ahead. It’s up to you whether you include the skin: Chinese people enjoy its cool, taut slipperiness and the succulence it gives to the dish, while Westerners often dislike it. If you are making the dish with the leftovers of a roasted bird, you may wish to add extra stock to the sauce because the flesh will be drier.
Recipe by Fuchsia Dunlop, The Food of Sichuan, £30, published by Bloomsbury.
Ingredients for Cold-dressed Chicken Serves: 4
- 400g cold poached chicken meat off the bone (about half a chicken)
- 4 spring onions
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 50g roasted or deep-fried peanuts
Ingredients for the sauce
How to make Cold-dressed Chicken
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Cut the spring onions into 1-2cm lengths (if they have a harsh onion flavour, you can briefly steam or microwave them to subdue this). Toast the sesame seeds in a dry wok or frying pan over a very gentle heat, until fragrant and tinged with gold.
- For the sauce, put the salt, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and stock into a small bowl and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar, then stir in the remaining sauce ingredients.
- Place the chicken in a bowl with the spring onions, peanuts and sauce and toss like a salad, then pile on to a serving dish. Just before serving, garnish with sesame seeds.