At 66, Jean-Georges Vongerichten sells 60 orders a day of this supermoist Hong Kong-style chicken. One of the reasons it's so good is that the chicken is fried whole in a wok, yet it doesn't taste remotely oily. The other reason is that the chicken is rubbed with aromatic five-spice powder and salt four hours before being basted with a vinegar and brown sugar syrup, then marinated overnight; plan accordingly.
Plus: More Chicken Recipes and Tips
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 chicken bouillon cube (12 grams)
One 3 1/2-pound chicken
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Szechwan peppercorns
3 1/4 cups vegetable oil
8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
How to Make It
Set a fine sieve over a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, the five-spice powder and bouillon cube and rub them through the sieve. Set the chicken on a platter. Rub the spice blend all over the chicken inside and out and refrigerate it for 4 hours.
In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar with the water, brown sugar and baking powder and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Stand the chicken in the syrup and ladle the syrup over it several times. Transfer the chicken to a rack set over a plate and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Pat the chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. In a large wok, heat 3 cups of the oil to 375° over moderately high heat. Carefully lower the chicken into the hot oil, breast side up, and cook until deeply browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Insert a large fork into the cavity and carefully transfer the chicken to a plate. Turn the chicken over and lower it into the hot oil, breast side down. Fry the chicken until deeply browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the Szechwan peppercorns over moderate heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool. Add 3 tablespoons of kosher salt and grind to a fine powder.
Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer the garlic and oil to a small bowl.
Transfer the chicken to a carving board, breast side up, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and arrange the pieces on a platter. Scatter the garlic and oil all over the chicken and serve with the spiced salt.
The spiced salt can be made up to 2 weeks ahead.
This dish marries well with beer or a wide variety of winesred, white or sparkling. Either a complex, lively, dry beer like Orval Trappist Ale from Belgium or a fruity, pepper red from France's southern Rhône Valley will complement the chicken and spicy seasoning here. Consider a Grenache-dominated Gigondas.
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