Quick, easy, and delicious. That is how my family described this braised chicken with mushrooms recipe.
While my wife prefers quick and simple recipes, I like to challenge myself with some complicated recipes and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
But when we both are busy with our work, braised chicken is the best option. Simple preparation, freezer-friendly, and mostly passive cooking are among the reasons we like braised chicken with mushrooms.
This braised chicken recipe is a typical Cantonese home cook recipe. It is readily upgraded as the main course for the banquet by using the higher grade mushrooms and more elaborate garnish.
Note: Don’t be fooled by the length of this article. It is long because I include as much information as possible. I promise this recipe is quick and easy.
How to prepare braised chicken with mushrooms
Here are the detailed steps on how to prepare the Cantonese style braised chicken with mushrooms.
1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms
Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms with water until fully hydrated. Soaking is essential since it requires a much longer time braising the mushrooms until soft if they are not rehydrated.
How much time does it require? It depends on the size and thickness of the mushrooms.
The best way to soak them is to leave them overnight to ensure even the mushrooms with the thickest cap are fully hydrated.
Soaking the mushrooms in hot water will shorten the time required. (Boiling water removed from heat or hot water from the flask). Place a heavy plate or bowl on top to weigh down the mushrooms. Otherwise, the dried shiitake mushrooms will float. This method is the fastest way to soften the dried shiitake mushrooms. I soaked the mushrooms this way in the embedded video, which took only two hours to complete.
Once the mushrooms turn soft, cut off the stems with scissors to entirely expose the cap.
The water after soaking the mushrooms is delicious and aromatic. Use it as the mushroom stock for braising the chicken.
2. Marinate the chicken
Season the chicken with light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, and some salt.
Marinate is vital because there is insufficient time to infuse the flavor into the meat during cooking. Marinating becomes less critical if you intend to keep the braised chicken with mushrooms overnight and reheat the following day, as the flavor will have adequate time to migrate into the meat.
Key components of the marinade
Light soy sauce is the critical component of braised chicken with mushrooms and other related Cantonese braised recipes. I used the premium grade ‘first draw 头抽’ soy sauce for better flavor. (The first draw is the best grade, similar to ‘extra virgin’ for olive oil).
Dark soy sauce is relatively less salty and has a caramelized flavor. I use 2 tsp of dark soy sauce for every 3 tbsp of the light soy sauce to darken the gravy’s color.
Soy sauce for braising 红烧酱油 is a more specific type of soy sauce with the flavor of light soy sauce but darker. You can use it for braising, but it may not be available at certain places. (Note: I do not use it in this recipe).
Oyster sauce is always used together with soy sauce for Chinese marinade. You can use the vegetarian ‘oyster sauce’ as the substitute. It’s made with mushroom extract but tastes like oyster sauce.
Cornstarch is also not required in the marinade. It is used in some stir-fries to protect the meat from getting dry and hard on the surface, but not in this recipe because it will be tender after braising. It can be counterproductive as it may cause the chicken to stick to the surface when you brown the chicken.
3. Saute the aromatic and brown the chicken
The triumvirate of aromatic for Chinese braising
Most of the Cantonese style braised chicken (pork and beef too) are flavored with the combination of ginger, garlic, and scallion. Their flavors compliment each other and taste excellent when combines with soy sauce.
Here are the steps :
- Heat some oil in the wok. The most common oil is peanut oil and palm oil, but other oils with a high smoking point are suitable.
- Cut the ginger into slices, scallion into long sections, plus a few bashed garlic cloves. Throw them into the oil and sauté over low heat until aromatic, which takes about a minute.
- Assume you have marinated the chicken thoroughly, add them to the aromatic and mix well. The chicken needs to be reasonably dry to brown on the surface, creating more flavor before braising. Be sure you only add the drained chicken and keep the remaining marinade aside
- Turn the chicken occasionally for even browning over low to medium heat. There is no need to cook the chicken thoroughly at this stage. The goal is to brown it to create flavor.
- Once it is browned, add the soaked mushrooms, the remaining marinade, the mushroom stock, and some water sufficient to cover the chicken.
4. Braised the chicken and mushrooms
- Now add the Shaoxing wine, rock sugar, and one star-anise.
- When it is boiling, reduce the heat to just enough to keep it at a barely simmering temperature.
- Simmer the chicken and mushrooms for thirty minutes. The temperature should be at a bare simmer throughout because rapid boiling will toughen the chicken meat.
- Turn the chicken from time to time to ensure even braising.
- Season with some sesame oil when it is nearly done.
Note: Cover the wok/pan to trap the steam within while braising for even cooking. However, you can remove the lid during the second half of braising if there is too much liquid left in the wok.
5. Thicken the sauce
By now, the amount of braising liquid should have been reduced substantially but still need to be thickened to form a gravy.
- Remove the chicken and boil it further. The chicken meat will fall off from the bone if you continue braising after this point. The goal is to make s thick and sticky gray that will cling onto the chicken.
- Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with three tablespoons of cold water to form a slurry. Add it to the braising liquid, and it will become a thick sauce once the starch is cooked.
- Now return the cooked chicken to the wok. Cover the chicken with the thick, glossy gravy thoroughly. Serve.
Additional information to cook the best Cantonese braised chicken with mushrooms
1. Why are dried shiitake mushrooms the best choice?
Dried shiitake mushrooms are the universal choice for all the Cantonese braised recipes. They are more flavorful, aromatic with a much meatier texture than their fresh counterpart.
It has a lacelike texture beneath the cap, which is excellent for braising with its ability to absorb flavor like a sponge.
There are different grades of dried shiitakes mushrooms. We use the standard grade for daily meals and the higher grade called 花菇 for special occasions. The word 花 refers to the deep cross-hatch lines on the cap, and 菇 means mushrooms.
2. Substitute for Shaoxing wine and rock sugar
Shaoxing ‘Huatiou’ wine 绍兴花雕酒 is the most common wine for Chinese cuisine. The closest substitute is dry sherry, and omit it if you do not consume alcohol.
Rock sugar is the choice of sugar for braising and preparing Chinese dessert. It gives the braised meat a translucent and shiny appearance and is not as sweet as the ordinary white sugar. However, the difference is not very significant, and you can substitute it with any sugar.
3. Use bone-in chicken for the best result
The flavor of the braised chicken with mushrooms is significantly better with bone-in chicken. First, the bones impart flavor to the liquid. Secondly, it contains collagen, which thickens the gravy naturally and glazes the chicken with a glossy and sticky coating.
4. The thickness of the gravy
You have a choice to cook down the braising liquid to a thick gravy to get a concentrated flavor. The gravy I prepare is quite thick, which will cling onto the chicken easily.
Other people may prefer a more diluted gravy, intended to drizzle the extra on the steamed rice.
More braising recipes for you
Braised pork belly (红烧肉/hong shao rou/red cooked pork) is a well-known pork dishes prepared with a combination of ginger, garlic, and soy sauce and a myriad of aromatic spices and cook over an extended period. Try it if you eat pork.
Braised chicken and potatoes 薯仔焖鸡 is a familiar home-cooked dish served in Cantonese households. The taste is different from the braised chicken with mushrooms, and you will appreciate its flavor with potatoes and tomatoes.
Braised tofu with vegetable 瓦煲豆腐 is an authentic home-cooked dish popular among the Chinese household. It is usually braised in a clay pot, which adds an earthy aroma to the dish. You will be delighted by the flavor of this vegetarian dish.
Ingredient A (Mushrooms)
- 60g dried shiitake mushrooms
- hot water sufficient to soak the mushrooms
Ingredient B (Marinate chicken)
- 1 kg chicken drumsticks
- 2.5 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt
Ingredients C (Aromatic)
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 60g ginger, sliced
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 stalk scallion, cut into sections
Ingredients D (Braising)
- Soak the mushrooms until fully hydrated. Remove the stems.
- Marinate the chicken with ingredients B for three hours.
- Heat the oil in a wok. Saute the ingredients in C over medium heat until aromatic.
- Add the marinated chicken over medium heat. Pan-fry until slightly golden.
- Add the mushrooms and ingredients D (except sesame oil and cornstarch slurry). Bring it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to keep the braise at barely simmering for 30 minutes.
- Remove the chicken. Increase the heat to medium or high to reduce the braising liquid volume if there's too much.
- Add the cornstarch slurry to thicken the gravy.
- Return the chicken to the wok and add the sesame oil.
- Cover the chicken with the thick, glossy gravy thoroughly. Serve.
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Joyce Chen 21-9972, Classic Series Carbon Steel Wok Set, 4-Piece, 14-Inch Charcoal
Rice Cooking Wine (Red) - 750ml (Pack of 1) by Shaohsing
Helen Ou @ Guangxi Specialty: Traditional Pure Brown Rock Sugar 17.6oz
Soeos Star Anise Seeds (Anis Estrella), Whole Chinese Star Anise Pods, Dried Anise Star Spice, 4 oz.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 294Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 142mgSodium: 789mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 29g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 12/16/2020