Homestyle Soy Sauce Chicken Stew

that’s a spice satchel in the middle which should have been removed for the shot

It might seem a little redundant for a blog only about food that’s cooked at home to post a recipe for something “homestyle.” But I defend my usage here to emphasize the fact that you will never see or eat this dish in a respectable restaurant (ever). And yet most Chinese people will probably have eaten something very similar to this recipe at home more times than they can count. I also mentioned it on Eat Drink One Woman and received a request for the recipe, so here goes…

What you might see at restaurants and take-out shops for dirt-cheap prices are the stewed hard-boiled eggs (lu dan) pictured in the stew. They’re the most wonderful things ever. The whites a turn varying degree of reddish brown and they become infused with flavor down to the yolk after braising in a broth like this for at least an hour. Chinese restaurants often mass produce these little bundles of joy and sell them as snacks but there’s nothing quite like stewing your own eggs, and you might as well as long as you’re making this dish anyway.

This dish (or family of dishes?) can be called hong shao in Chinese, which directly translates to “red cook” (red referring to the color of soy sauce). It’s also very tasty when made with cubes of beef, pork, or most any meat or fish. Throw in some pressed tofu and let it simmer for a while and you’ll have spiced tofu. My family has also cooked this with some seaweed knots, which are very nutritious. I’m not an expert on it, but I think you can add whatever ingredients and improvise with a basic hong shao recipe as much as you like. I would add another hour of cooking though, if I were making this instead with beef.

before the lid goes on

Soy Sauce Chicken Stew

(makes 3-4 servings)

About 2 lb of chicken pieces with bones–legs, wings, thighs
1 or 2 scallion shoots, coarsley chopped
2-3 Tb sliced ginger root
1/4 cup soy sauce (depending on how dark it is–I used Japanese Kikkomen which is on the darker side)
1/2 cup rice wine
1 cup or more water
1 Chinese five-spice satchel (or a spice sack containing star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, and basil)
1 Tb oil
Some hard-boiled eggs, shelled (optional)

In a medium-large saucepan, heat the oil. Brown the chicken for a few minutes along with the sliced ginger. Add the scallion, soy sauce, rice wine, spice satchel, water, and shelled hard-boiled eggs if using. Make sure contents are decently covered, adding more water if necessary. Cover and simmer for an hour or longer. Serve over steamed rice with a generous helping of broth. Eggs can keep for a few days and can be eaten separately.

Cost Calculator
(for 3-4 servings)

2 lb chicken pieces: $2.00
1 Tb sliced ginger: $0.08
1/2 cup rice wine (at $2.00 a bottle): $0.25
1/4 cup soy sauce (at $2.50/bottle): $0.20
1 scallion (at $0.99/bunch): $0.20
4 eggs (at $2.00/dozen): $0.65

Total: $3.63

Health Factor

Four brownie points – this can be a bit of a salty dish, depending on how salty your palette is. It doesn’t get many points for nutritional elements either, but like any good comfort food it serves its purpose of making you feel better when you’re sick, or just homesick for your mom’s cooking.

15 Responses

  1. spanky28

    I want to try this recipe. Where can one get their hands on those spice satchels in NYC? Any specific store in Chinatown?

  2. Christine

    I have to ask: $2.00 for 2 pounds of chicken? Where are you shopping? Where in NYC can chicken be had for $1.00 a pound?

  3. cathy

    I also have a hard time understanding why bony parts of the chicken are exorbitantly less expensive than boneless. At the Associated Markets in Brooklyn they often sell quartered chicken legs at $.99/lb or sometimes even less. I forgot to check the weight of what I ended up using so I think I may have had more like 1.5 lb in the recipe though…

    There’s a large Chinese grocery store on Elizabeth and Hester in Chinatown called Dynasty which would be your best bet for finding a box of five-spice sacks. As an alternative, you can find Chinese five-spice powder in the international aisles of many American grocery stores, too.

  4. Ganda

    Fab recipe! Fab fab fab fab fab. Can’t wait to try it.

  5. Yvo

    Hmmm, when I first saw this, I thought first of regular “soy sauce chicken” which my mom sometimes threw hard boiled eggs in to stew with it. She mostly made just the wings (because that’s what we liked to eat) and my it was delicious. Actually I’m going to ask her for that recipe. I think she made this too but for some reason I don’t remember eating it, like ever.

    Bone-in is heavier so it offsets that cost plus boneless requires more work? As far as my understanding goes, anyway….

    PS Who designed your website? Do you have any contact information you could pass along? Thanks!!!

  6. cathy

    Yvo-I’d love to hear about your mom’s recipe. Hey, bones are good for flavor…

    So the site was designed by my brother and the illustration by my roommate. I’ll pass on the compliment…

  7. Chriscla

    Forgive my ignorance here but what is “rice wine”? I know there are several different types of wines made from rice (e.g Sake) but I have never seen anything just named Rice wine. Do you mean Rice Wine vinegar?

    I only ask because this looks great and I want to make it tonight.

  8. cathy

    Not the same as rice vinegar, it’s clear, and can be found at Asian markets labeled “rice cooking wine” or something like that. A popular Japanese brand of rice wine is Mirin, which you might find in American stores. Good luck!

  9. Kim

    Hi, Cathy:

    If substituting 5 spice powder, how much should be added? Thanks!

  10. cathy

    Hi Kim–that’s a good question, but I think it’s all up to your own personal taste. Try adding just a teaspoon and then see if you feel like it could use more. It’s a pretty distinct flavor so that might just be enough. Good luck!

  11. Bel

    I’m so glad I stumbled on this recipe!! Now I can make it just like MaMa makes!!! Thank you so much!

  12. plasmo

    Great to see this post, this was a childhood fave. So even though it’s old, I’m going to comment. You said it might be salty for some people’s taste – that’s because you’re only using one type of soy sauce. The light salty one. I usually use three types for this dish, light salty soy, dark soy, and a dark sticky (caramelized and sweeter) soy. Thanks for sharing your fab blog!

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  15. Marie

    Just made! Turned out yummy! I never had this kind of soup before and love trying new kinds. I did eat with noodles instead of rice. Rice noodles lol. Thanks for sharing!

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