Chichi's Chinese: Drunken Chicken

Chichi's Chinese

Home-style Chinese cooking and occasional cultural commentary.


[Photograph: Chichi Wang]

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This is one of my favorite chicken dishes to have on a hot summer's day. This chicken is cold, it is juicy, and drenched in wine.

Or rather, soaked in wine, up until the moment you remove the chicken from its bath and set it on the plate to eat. It is not an exaggeration to say this, because the marinating liquid for this chicken is 50% chicken broth and 50% rice wine.

Now, this probably goes without saying, but I want to say it anyway. If you don't like rice wine, you are not going to like this chicken. You are probably not going like the way the chicken flesh is just dripping and juicy with what is basically a chicken cocktail, and the way the meat tastes so alcoholic that if you eat a half chicken's worth of this, as I have done on some occasion, you may feel a little buzzed. (Then again, I suffer from the high chicken/low alcohol tolerance problem.)


In Chinese meals, this aptly-named drunken chicken is served as a cold dish before the warm stir-fried dishes are brought to the table. Yet I see no reason for drunken chicken to be relegated to the appetizer portion of the meal. It is very good as a main couse, with maybe a light salad on the side.

Drunken chicken is so easy to make, too: You poach it, you cut it up, you dunk it in the broth in which it cooked, plus the equivalent amount of wine. You can use a whole chicken, or only white meat or only dark, and once you've made it, it can sit in the marinade for many days, and only become slightly more alcoholic-tasting as the days wear on (which, in my book, is not a bad thing).

Sometimes I really want to futz about with the marinade, and add some sugar and white peppercorns, and maybe some star anise or cloves. But then I think, no, no, I just want my chicken to taste like wine. You are, of course, welcome to make the recipes more involved by adding more spices and seasonings, though I'm a purist when it comes to drunken chicken.