KitchenTigress: Paper-Wrapped Chicken

Paper-Wrapped Chicken

The paper in 纸包鸡 serves a purpose (other than containing the chicken).

It gives the chicken the best of two worlds: steaming and deep-frying.

Because the meat juices have nowhere to escape, the chicken is extremely juicy, much juicier than paperless deep-fried chicken could ever be.

At the same time, there's the fragrance of browned chicken though it's not crisp.

In fact, the aroma isn't just on the outside of the chicken. The wonderful flavour is inside the meat as well because the paper acted like a shield, preventing it from going anywhere else.

Paper-wrapped chicken was very popular in the '70s. I vaguely recall my mother making it a few times. The dish was considered quite posh then.

纸包鸡 is so rare now it's either novel or nostalgic, depending on how old you are.

I wouldn't have made 纸包鸡, or even thought of it, if a friend hadn't sent me this hilarious Cantonese cartoon (if you prefer Mandarin, click here):

Source: Adapted from Cooking for the President
(Recipe for 4 persons)

4 small spring chicken legs weighing 600 g, debone to yield 500 g meat

15 g ginger
15 g shallots
20 g garlic
½ tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
½ tbsp light soya sauce
1 tsp dark soya sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp Cognac

1 tbsp white sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp tapioca flour

16 pieces parchment paper, cut 25 x 15 cm
oil for deep-frying

🌹 I've tried Sakura chicken vs regular spring chicken, both from Fairprice. For this recipe, the spring chicken is more silky and juicy. The pounded ginger, garlic and shallot paste is also crucial. It browns during the deep-frying and creates a lovely fragrance. If only the juices are used, minus the pulp, the 纸包鸡 would be like steamed chicken.

To prepare chicken, rinse and cut each leg into 8 pieces. Peel and rinse ginger, shallots and garlic. Cut into small pieces. Pound finely, or blitz in a mini chopper. Mix thoroughly with all other marinade ingredients and chicken. Leave to marinate for 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.

Just before wrapping, drizzle with sesame oil and vegetable oil and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with tapioca flour and mix again.

To wrap chicken, place parchment paper in a stack facing you horizontally. Fold left ⅓ of paper to the right, then right ⅓ to the left. Turn over, and fold bottom ⅓ upward. You now have fold lines for turning each piece of paper into a pocket.

Form a pocket with parchment paper. Fill with 2 pieces of chicken. Do not include any excess marinade. Fold left and right corner of top flap downward, forming a triangle. Tuck triangle into bottom flap as snugly as possible. Place wrapped chicken on a plate, flap side facing up. Repeat with remaining paper and chicken.

To deep-fry, place wrapped chicken in just smoking oil over medium-high heat till medium brown, about ½ minute each side. Remove from heat and reheat oil. Refry chicken for a few seconds till dark brown. Drain and serve immediately.