Zui Ji (Drunken Chicken 醉鸡)
What is it?
Zui ji (drunken chicken) is a famous cold dish originating from Zhejiang Province. The most famous version, originated from the city of Shaoxing, sees the chicken boiled with ginger and green onion before being dunked in cold water to firm up the skin. It is then soaked in a marinade partly made of chicken broth and a lot of Shaoxing wine – a type of alcoholic beverage made from grains like rice and sorghum – to create the distinct aroma and slightly sweet flavour tinged with alcohol. It is believed that Shaoxing wine is used not only because it adds a complex flavour but it also cuts grease and helps digestion, which renders the dish a popular appetiser.
Why is it so famous?
One of the most popular stories about the origin of drunken chicken goes like this: once upon a time three brothers – living in the same family courtyard complex – wanted one of their wives to manage the household (which would mean she would have more power over the other two wives). To decide who was most fitted for the position, they asked each of them to make a chicken dish.
The first wife made a double boiled chicken soup. The second made a poached chicken. The third wife brought out a chicken soaked in the wine marinade. As soon as she opened the lid, the beautiful fragrance from the wine filled the whole room. Needless to say, the wife of the third brother was named the head of the household.
Today, there is everything from drunken crab to drunken shrimp and even drunken snails, all using a similar cooking method involving Shaoxing wine.
Where to eat it?
Lao Zheng Xing is one of the oldest establishments serving drunken chicken in Shanghai. 556 Fuzhou Road (near Central Zhejiang Road); 86-21-6322 2624. Liu Pavilion in Hong Kong is also an authentic option for su cai cuisine. While you are there, why not try drunken duck too: 3/F The Broadway, 54-62 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai; Tel: 852-2804-2000.
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