Monday, 1 September 2008

Ban ban ji: A Japanese take on a classic Chinese chicken dish

Forever summer: it might be a good name for a Nigella cookbook, but when its the actual sticky tropical Japanese summer you're talking about, it's not quite so warm and fuzzy. And with the early start to summer this year, forever summer feels more like a prison sentence.

Cooking is always a bit of a bane when, with no air conditioning, the kitchen is over 30 degrees C before you even begin.

Imagine my joy, then, at finding this recipe that involves no actual stove time!! Yup, a few short minutes in the microwave will get you this fabulous Japanese take on the classic Chinese dish of chilled poached chicken with sesame dressing.

If the thought of chilled. poached. chicken. leaves you, well, cold, then hold that mouse! It is actually very tasty, and, the jelly that forms as it cools makes the chicken a treat on the tongue as well. It's perfect summer fare.

But wait: there's more! An earthy yet piquant, spicy yet comforting sesame dressing and fridge cold cucumbers and tomatoes round this off perfectly. All we needed was some cold silken tofu topped with katsuobushi (shaved dried bonito flakes) and soy sauce (my favourite lazy summer accompaniment) for a very satisfying meal.

This recipe comes from my fail-safe Japanese omnibus cookbook, 365-nichi no okazu on chie (100 yen side dishes: Know-how for 365 days), which now sadly seems to be out of print.

Ban-Ban Ji: Chilled poached chicken with sesame dressing

2 boneless chicken thighs, skins on
2 thinnish slices of fresh ginger
1 thin Japanese leek, separated into white and green
2 tbsp sake or dry white wine
2 Japanese cucumbers, sliced into matchsticks
cherry tomatoes

For the sesame dressing
2 tbsp Japanese sesame paste or tahini
1-2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
3 tbsp Japanese leek, chopped very finely
1 tsp sake, or dry white wine
1 tsp ginger, very finely chopped
1 tbsp castor sugar
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2-1 tsp tobanjan (Chinese: doubanjiang) or other chilli bean paste

1 Pierce the skin of the chicken thighs all over with a fork and rub with green parts of the Japanese leek, ginger, sake and a little salt. Place in a microwave-safe dish, cover with cling film and microwave on high for 8-10 minutes, or until done. Remove from microwave and leave, covered, until cool. Refrigerate if time permits

2 Make sesame dressing by mixing the sesame paste or tahini, soy sauce, Japanese leek, sake or wine, ginger, castor sugar, rice vinegar and tobanjan or chilli bean paste in a jar. Slice remaining Japanese leek white into very fine strips. Refrigerate both until needed.

3 Slice chicken into strips. Arrange cucumber matches on a serving plate, top with sliced chilled chicken and top with sesame dressing and leek. Scatter cherry tomatoes alongside.


PS Other takes on this are found here (disregard the 10 oz (284 g) of chicken called for; you'd want about that much for 2) and in message MSG ID: 033732 here.


Cynthia said...

The Chinese version of the dish is on my to-do list and your description makes we want to do it tomorrow, but I can't :)

Saffron said...

Yeah, I also want to do the cold chicken with ginger garlic and spring onion topping. So many things to make, so little time, eh :)