This unusual method of cooking chicken is ingenious: a thin slice of chicken is sandwiched between flavourful ingredients and wrapped in greaseproof paper, then deep-fried. As the package cooks, the mixture steams and the flavours meld, the result being a most delicious and unique starter. The package must be wrapped carefully so the oil does not seep in. Some Chinese restaurants cheat by using a quick marinade of hoisin and soy sauce, then wrapping the chicken in foil. Although this recipe takes a little more work, the outcome is worth the effort. It is one of those special dishes that is also a dinnertime conversation piece: the cook may modestly but justifiably boast of the achievement!
|250g (8oz)||boneless, skinless chicken breasts|
|30||shreds of red chilli, 4cm (1½in) long|
|60||fresh coriander leaves|
|30||pieces of Parma ham, 7.5cm (3in) square|
|60||shreds of spring onion, cut into 4cm (1½ in) pieces, on the diagonal|
|30||shreds of fresh ginger, cut into 4 x 0.5cm (1½ x ¼in) pieces|
|30||thinly sliced pieces of fresh, peeled or tinned water chestnut|
|l.2 l (2 pints)||groundnut oil|
|For the marinade:|
|2 tbsp||oyster sauce|
|1 tbsp||light soy sauce|
|1 tbsp||dark soy sauce|
|1 tbsp||Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry|
|1 tsp||sesame oil|
|Salt and black pepper|
You will need a wok.
Cut the chicken into 30 pieces about 4 x 0.5cm (1½ x ¼in), and combine them with the marinade ingredients in a glass bowl. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Cut out 30 x 15cm (6in) squares of greaseproof paper. Place a greaseproof square on a work surface, with a corner towards you, and fold the tip in slightly. In the centre of the square place the following: a shred of chilli, a fresh coriander leaf, a piece of marinated chicken, a square of Parma ham, 2 shreds of spring onion, a shred of ginger, a slice of water chestnut and finally another fresh coriander leaf. Fold the first corner over the ingredients, then fold in the sides. Then fold the entire package in half, leaving a flap at the corner furthest away from you. Finally tuck the flap in to secure the package. Repeat until all the packages are filled and the ingredients are used up.
Heat a wok over a high heat until it is hot, then add the oil. When it is hot and slightly smoking, add about 10 packages and deep-fry for about 3 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain well. Deep-fry the rest of the packages in 2 batches in the same manner.
When they are all ready, arrange them on a platter and let each guest unwrap his or her own packages.