Dong'an 東安 = a county in Hunan province
Zi Ji 子雞 = young chicken
Dong'an Zi Ji is a very famous Hunanese dish, a spicy and vinegary chicken stir fry. Another name is vinegar chicken.
This dish dated back to Tang Dynasty over 1000 yrs ago. Here is the story how it was created.
"On night a hungry customer walked into a restaurant in Dong'an, being very late almost everything was sold out. The owner tried not to disappoint the customer, he quickly slaughtered a chicken and rustled up a stir fry with whatever food left in the kitchen. A simple unknown chicken dish was born with ginger, spring onion, chillies and plenty of vinegar. The customer really enjoyed the chicken, so this dish soon spread out throughout the surrounding areas. The Mayor of the province soon heard of this and come for a tasting. He really like it too. He then named this dish Dong'an Zi Ji."
Now this dish is famous not only in Hunan but throughout China and abroad.
No sure if the recipe still remains authentic today as it was years ago. I wonder if bell peppers were available all those years ago, they are commonly included in this dish nowadays. Anyway, enough of history, here is a typical recipe. It's quite simple.
This chicken dish is very spicy and tangy, if you don't like too spicy reduce the chillies, ginger and chilli oil, use sparingly. Also if you don't like the sauce too sour reduce the vinegar.
Ingredients: Serve 2 on its own with rice or 3 - 4 as part of various dishes meal
2 large chicken legs about 550 - 650g (if you prefer to use boned breast meat it's fine too use about 450 - 500g)
water for poaching
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, rinse* and drain
few 1" long dried chillies (or other dry chillies), remove stalks if chunky remove seeds and cut into 1/2 or 1/4, no need to soak (no. of chillies to your taste)
2 - 3 stalks of spring onion (scallion), use the white part only, sliced
1 small chunk of ginger, shredded
about 2 -3 tbsp cooking oil
1 each of small red and green bell pepper, cut into long strips (or any mixed colour you like), if using large peppers just use half of each
1 rounded tbsp each sliced red and green chilli (can leave out if you don't like too spicy, I used mild chillies)
1 medium onion (red onion is nice too), sliced
1/4 - 1/3 cup any Chinese vinegars like white rice vinegar, red vinegar 大紅浙醋, Chinkiang black vinegar or yellow vinegar (more or less to your taste)
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
about 2 tsp sugar (more if you like a sweeter taste, normally little sugar is added)
1/2 tsp salt (more if you like)
2 - 3 tsp light soy sauce or 1 tsp chicken bullion powder
1 tbsp cornflour mix few tbsp water
1 - 2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 -2 tsp chilli oil (to your taste)
* I find wetting the Sichuan peppercorns will release the fragrance more and faster before they get burnt.
- Put chicken in a saucepan, add enough water to cover. Heat the water till boiling, remove any scum then continue simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove chicken legs, rinse of any scum and put them in cold water to cool down. Then take them out, remove the bones and chicken skin if you like, I like to leave the skin on. Cut the boned chicken into long strips along its grains. If the chicken is not cooked through it does not matter, the following stir frying will finish the cooking. Do not overcooked the chicken during poaching or the meat can be tough after stir frying.
- Add cooking oil to wok heat to medium hot, add Sichuan peppercorns and fry till oil is fragrant and peppercorns look dark brown. Remove peppercorns. Add dried chillies, they will sizzle then follow by spring onion and ginger. Stir fry till fragrant.
- Turn the heat on highest add chicken pieces, stir then add some/most of slackened cornflour to coat the chicken, this is to avoid meat juices running out too quickly especially if the wok is not superhot. Then add vinegar and wine stir fry till hot and bubbly then add peppers, fresh chillies and onion. Stir fry till vegetables are slightly softened.
- Add remaining slackened cornflour if required, stir till sauce is bubbly and thickened. Can add more water if not enough sauce.
- Season with enough salt, dash of soy sauce/chicken powder, sugar, sesame oil and chilli oil.