Da Pan Ji (Big Plate Chicken 大盘鸡)
What is it?
Da pan ji translates as “big plate chicken” and is a popular dish from Xinjiang (an autonomous region in the northwest of China).
The chicken is first cut into bite size pieces, sautéed with spices (plenty of chilli and peppercorn) and coarsely chopped vegetables, and then slowly cooked in beer. As the name implies, the dish is a large one and usually serves more than eight people. Da pan ji is often served with latiaozi, Xinjiang’s famous hand stretched noodle. The plain noodle balances the spiciness of the sauce and soaks up the juice of the chicken. And don’t forget to wash it all down with some Xinjiang black beer.
Why is it famous?
According to folklore, the dish was invented by cooks along the highway as a quick fix for hungry travellers. In the 1980s a restaurant in Shawan County in Xinjiang devised the chicken dish, somewhat by accident. One day a construction worker ordered a plate of chicken and enjoyed it so much he wanted to bring it back to other workers on the nearby site. So he asked the chef to make him a dish that used the entire chicken. The chef obliged, using every part of the chicken including the bones and skin, but he didn’t have a plate large enough to carry the dish. As he looked around the kitchen, he saw a platter he used to carry noodles. So he put the chicken on the large plate (da pan) and gave it to the worker. The dish became such a hit with the other workers that it soon became known as ‘big plate chicken’.
Where to eat it?
Who does Xinjiang food better than the people from the province? Check out the Xinjiang Islamic Restaurant in the Xinjiang provincial government office in Beijing, 7 Sanlihe Lu (inside the courtyard of the Xinjiang Provincial Government Office; Tel: 86-10-6833-2266). An alternative is Crescent Moon Restaurant near Wangfujing, 16 Dongsi Liutiao, west of Chaonei Beixiaojie, Beijing; Tel: 86-10-6400-5281).
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