Before the events that began to spin Wednesday afternoon and ended Saturday morning, I planned to spend the weekend doing some experimental cookie recipes. As things went, however, I couldn’t muster up the energy to psych myself up into baking. When the rain began to pour around three on Saturday afternoon, I decided I would make something good, hot, and extremely comforting for dinner. Specifically, a dish my peers and I enjoyed when we were young girls in college.
In March 1994, a small group of us made our way to De La Salle University on the other side of Taft Avenue for the annual Deveza Cup – a multi-event public speaking competition that our university always participated in. Alas for Team PWU, it was not one of our golden moments as we failed to place in every category. But we were young and we didn’t dwell on our disappointment; our appetites being hearty, we simply crossed the street to a Chowking branch and smothered our sorrows with jokes, root beer, and bowls of hot rice topped with a heavenly mixture of steamed chicken and Chinese sausage.
It was, I guess, a coincidence that the main course in this month’s Weekend Cooking section of Yummy was Chef Him Uy de Baron‘s recipe for steamed chicken with Shaoxing wine, purple yam, and shiitake mushrooms. It looked most delectable, and while I did spend some time with an old college friend early Saturday afternoon, I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for ingredients for this dish.
I have to confess something at this point: while I followed the method for the recipe to the letter, I had to substitute a number of things a some ingredients weren’t available or I felt that whatever replacements I used cut down on prep time. Case in point: Chef Him’s recipe called for a whole chicken, chopped into eight parts. I used chicken thigh fillets which are flavorful, tender, and need no breaking up. I didn’t have Shaoxing rice wine, but I used dark rum (A sacrilege? Oh, my…) instead – but it gave the same flavors as the dish I ate during my college days. Plus, while I did buy mushrooms, I somehow forgot to add them and added chunked carrots instead – but they did work wonderfully with the dish.
Oh, and I was quite particular about the brand of Chinese sausage used for this dish. Here – and trust me when I say this – only Fat and Thin brand Chinese sausages will do. (These are the ones with Laurel and Hardy in the label.) They are slightly leaner than others and taste gorgeously like a cinnamon-and-star-anise-rubbed ham.
Plus, if you can get it, pinkish- or purple-skinned taro is best. It adds a bit of welcome stodgy starchiness that is perfect with the chicken and sausage.
While it does take a bit of time to prepare, you’re practically home-free once you place the dish in the steamer. This dish is magnificently fragrant with the aroma of fresh ginger and sesame oil. The tender chicken goes a treat with the sweet yet savory sausage and is most satisfying when served on a cold, rainy night.
Chinese-style Steamed Chicken and Sausage
For the chicken marinade:
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and crushed
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark rum or rice wine
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons granulated white sugar
For the rest of the dish:
- 6 chicken thigh fillets
- 3 Chinese sausages, sliced on the bias
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunky half-moons
- 1 medium taro, peeled and cut into chunky strips
- 3 stalks spring onion (green part only), minced
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a non-reactive bowl. Add the chicken and leave to soak for an hour or overnight.
Preheat a steamer. In a shallow dish that can fit into the steamer, place the marinated fillets, sausage, taro, and carrot. Pour over some of the marinade. Cover and steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Transfer the steamed food into a serving dish and scatter the minced green onion on top.
While my family seriously enjoyed this dish (and there was still some left over to bring to my brother when we visited him at his parish the following day), I couldn’t help but grieve a little as I ate.
With Noralyn gone, it was like a part of my youth had died along with her.