|Trini-Chinese Chicken, Photo: NK|
Here is Sam Sifton's description of this very delicious dish:
"Chinese-style chicken is a dish you can find all over Trinidad and within the diaspora that has followed the nation’s emergence from British rule. The skin is fried into a lacquered mahogany. The meat beneath it tastes of five-spice, ginger and soy and is generally accompanied by a hum of oyster sauce mixed with the zing of the pickled Scotch-bonnet-pepper sauce that is seemingly omnipresent on the island’s tables."
- New York Times Magazine
As Sifton points out, Trini-Chinese Chicken is really a fusion recipe with flavor influences that come from Trinidad's Chinese population of indentured servants in the 19th Century.
A few things to note should you decide to try Trini-Chinese Chicken:
Unless you have an amazing frying setup - a deep fryer or those clever little screens that prevent oil spatter - there will be a mess in your kitchen. Achieving that mahogany color that Sifton mentions takes some doing - and by doing I mean very hot oil.
Our cooking took just over 20 minutes. I'd say 23. We had some particularly plump Drums and Thighs. I didn't use Wings because I never find them that meaty. Overall, I would recommend testing one of the larger Chicken pieces about 18 minutes in. Some of the smaller pieces may be done before the others, so you can also feel free to remove them once they are no longer pink in the middle and their juices run clear when pierced.
I would say that this is a great dish to serve for company were it not for the fact that my kitchen became an unholy mess during its making. Also, I had to make a point of keeping a safe distance from the pan since oil spatter was a problem. It may make sense to split the Chicken into two very deep pans to minimize this issue.
Was it all worth it? Surely.
The Results: After not much deliberation, our verdict was that this dish was extremely tasty and definitely worth making again and again. Predictably, my husband and I gobbled this Chicken up with reckless abandon. I even enjoyed the leftovers twice and they heated up nicely in the microwave. As far as presentation, it's a winner that looks dramatic and mouthwatering on a large platter. Use garnishes to add color (we chose Cilantro and the recommended sliced Scallions) and serve with extra sauce on the side and extra Matouk's Hot Sauce if you are, like me, a shameless spice hound.
From the New York Times
Serves 4 to 6
8 to 10 Chicken Thighs, Legs and Wings, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds total (we omitted wings)
2 Tablespoons Five-Spice Powder
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 2-inch knob Ginger Root, peeled and minced (we used 2 teaspoons Dried Ginger)
1/2 cup neutral oil, like Canola or Grapeseed
2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
1/2 Cup Oyster Sauce
1 to 3 Tablespoons Scotch-bonnet-pepper sauce, ideally Matouk’s Soca, to taste
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 Cup chopped Scallions, for garnish
Cilantro, for another optional garnish
In a large, nonreactive bowl, toss the chicken with five-spice powder, then with the juice of 2 of the limes, the soy sauce and the ginger. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours.
Heat oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. There should be at least 1/4 inch of oil in the pan. When the oil is hot, remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess marinade to drip back into the bowl, and fry, in batches if necessary to not crowd the pan, turning the pieces frequently, until well browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Combine oyster sauce, a tablespoon of the Scotch-bonnet-pepper sauce and the juice of the remaining lime and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings with more hot sauce, lime juice and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Garnish with scallions and serve with white or fried rice, with a drizzle of the sauce over each piece of chicken and the remaining sauce on the side.