The braised chicken with mushrooms have a concentrated savory flavor. The broth absorbs the flavor of the chicken and dried shiitake mushroom to create a potent sauce that enhances them both. The mushrooms are the highlight of the dish, meaty and juicy, and add an earthy umami to the tender chicken.
Braised chicken with mushrooms (小鸡炖蘑菇) is a classic northern Chinese dish. The recipe originally called for a whole free range chicken, to be braised with dried mushrooms in a soy-sauce-based savory sauce. The chicken becomes flavorful and tender, but the mushrooms are the real highlight. They are so meaty in texture and absorb tons of flavor from the chicken. It is a winter dish but my family enjoys it year round.
If you’ve been following Omnivore’s Cookbook for a while, you might have noticed I have very similar collection of braised dishes, like the braised duck and braised pork ribs. The truth is, my parents are from the northern part of China, and they cook this type of braised dish all the time. The braising sauces might look very similar to each other – a savory and strong brown sauce with soy sauce as its base. But the key is the ratio and combination of other spices.
By adjusting the spices according to the type of protein, the sauce will create a customized umami that brings out the deliciousness of the ingredients. Plus, you shouldn’t taste the flavor of any single spice in the finished dish, because everything works together as parts of a whole. On the other hand, if you’re not careful, you might find the finished dish tasting overwhelmingly of star anise, for example. This is a result we always try to avoid.
The Art of Chinese Braising
As a general guide, remember the following tips when cooking Chinese braised dishes. (This considers about 1.5 kilograms / 3 pounds of meat or poultry).
- Add plenty of Shaoxing wine. It won’t affect the result too much if you add a bit more.
- Add plenty of fresh ginger and green onion. A thumb-size ginger is generally enough for cooking 1.5 to 2 kilograms (3 to 4 pound) chicken. The amount of green onion is more flexible, about 4 to 8 pieces of white part.
- Be careful with the soy sauce. We usually use the combination of light soy sauce, which add flavors, and dark soy sauce, which adds color. Don’t add too much of either soy sauce, otherwise the sauce with end up tasting like it. You should only add a bit of dark soy sauce (1 to 2 teaspoons is usually enough), otherwise the dish will turn very dark and won’t look appetizing.
- Always be stingy with star anise and clove. In most cases, one whole star anise star is enough. Its flavor is extremely strong and will easily stand out.
A Few Things To Note
- Try to use bone-in cuts of chicken. A whole free range chicken is preferable, but you can use wings, legs, and/or thighs. Ask the butcher to chop the legs and thighs into smaller sized pieces so they absorb more flavor during braising.
- Adjust braising time according to the type of chicken. A free range chicken might take more than 1 hour to braise, while a typical young chicken will start to fall apart and dry up after 50 minutes. Check the doneness of the chicken closely after 30 minutes to avoid overcooking.
- Make the braising sauce a bit salty, because the braising time is relatively short and the chicken won’t have enough time to absorb all the flavor.
- Thicken the sauce until it can coat the chicken, so the taste of the chicken will be just right.
- Try to use dried shiitake in this recipe. If you don’t like dried mushrooms, you can use fresh ones. The dish will still be super delicious, but its flavor character will change.
This recipe is one of the recipes from my Mom’s Best collection. The collection contains family recipes handed down from my grandma to my dad, then to my mom. Now, the torch has been passed to me. In this same series, you can also find Mom’s best beef stew with tendon, Mom’s best braised pork spare ribs, Mom’s best braised duck leg and Mom’s best braised pork feet.
- 35 grams (1.2 ounces) dried shiitake mushrooms
- 6 (1.5 kilograms / 3 pounds) bone-in chicken leg with thigh, chopped to 3 to 4 pieces
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or Japanese sake)
- 1 thumb-size (20 grams / 0.7 ounces) ginger
- 1 whole star anise
- 300 grams (10 ounces) tea tree mushrooms (oyster, shimeji, or fresh shiitake mushrooms etc.)
- 6 (40 grams) green onion, white part
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Place dried shiitake mushrooms in a medium-sized bowl and add water to cover. Rehydrate mushrooms until soft, 20 to 30 minutes (or according to instructions). Set aside.
- Wash chicken carefully with tap water. Transfer to a large pot and add water to cover chicken. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Use a large ladle to skim the foam from the surface. Try to leave the oil on top, however, because it will add a nice flavor to the dish later.
- Transfer the chicken to a wok (or dutch oven). Pour in chicken broth until it almost completely covers the chicken. Add Shaoxing wine, ginger, and star anise. After bringing to a boil, simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes.
- While braising the chicken, prepare the mushrooms and other ingredients. Wash the shiitake mushrooms carefully with running water.
- Add green onion, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into the wok. Use a spatula to scoop the chicken from the bottom and mix the ingredients. Add rehydrated shiitake mushrooms and place tea tree mushrooms (or whichever type you’ve chosen) on top. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn back to low heat and simmer covered until chicken turns soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Check the chicken every 10 minutes, scooping from the bottom with a spatula to avoid burning.
- Taste a small piece of chicken and some sauce, adding salt if necessary. If you want to serve the chicken by itself, the chicken should taste slightly plain now, because the saltiness will increase once the sauce is reduced. If you want to serve the chicken over steamed rice, add a bit of salt until it tastes just right. In this case, I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt to get a slightly salty dish in the end.
- Turn to high heat and boil uncovered. Use a spatula to scoop the chicken from the bottom constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the chicken, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to a plate and serve warm over rice.
- Store the leftover chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 10 servings generated by the recipe.