One storey, another and perhaps a few more: Steamed Lime Chicken with its Summer Friend the Courgette.
Delicate flavours, smooth and intricate textures, tender shapes and innumerable ingredients draw together the palates of China. One cannot speak of just one in particular, because diversity, amplitude and distinguished tradition in Chinese cookery, are of the oldest and have shaped numerous cuisines of other lands.
Today, during my journey into Chinese flavour I learnt how to say delicious in Mandarin. Hào chī (pinyin) 好吃, which literally translates into -good eat-.The first hanzi, Hào, is formed by two characters, a woman and a man, or a girl and a boy, siblings, a couple, friends, any combination of the two and it means, simply, -good-. Good is good for everything and everyone and it is really good to eat steamed lime chicken with courgette.
This recipe, with very shy variants, limes instead of lemons for example and a bit of extra tablespoons and teaspoons of pretty much everything, originates from Neil Perry’s book, Asia Food: Balance and Harmony. Balance and harmony are founding reasons for my journey into Chinese flavour and perhaps the most relevant, is sharing my life with a Taiwanese-German, who as I, finds eating at the top echelons of good.
Steamed Lime Chicken with its Summer Friend the Courgette.
4 chicken legs, skin on, de-boned and cut in two at the joint
1 1/2 limes cut in quarters lengthwise
A good pinch of ground Szechuan pepper (or fresh ground white pepper)
3 Spring onions julienne (sliced very thin)
4 Tbsp Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine)
3 Tbsp (thin) Soy sauce
2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
3 Tbsp Sesame oil
1 Tbsp Peanut oil
1 tsp Sea salt
2 Tbsp Brown sugar
4 medium to small courgettes, julienne
Bamboo steamer (at least two storeys)
Earthenware or glass plate that will fit inside a lid-on bamboo steamer
T-towel or aluminium foil to cover plate during steaming
Large wok or high rimmed pan
Lay the de-boned chicken, skin facing up in a ceramic or glass plate that will be used for steaming. Squeeze the juice and lay the remaining skins and pulp of the lime quarters over the chicken. Arrange the julienne spring onions in the centre. Pour all the marinade ingredients over the chicken. Marinate in the fridge for twenty to thirty minutes before steaming.
In the meantime, julienne the courgettes and lay them in one level of the bamboo steamer. Bring water to a boil in a half full wok or high rimmed pan. Take the chicken out of the fridge and cover it lightly with a cotton cloth or aluminium foil and place it on the first storey of the bamboo steamer, followed by the second storey of the steamer with the courgette and finally, followed by the bamboo steamer lid. Put the two storey bamboo steamer over the boiling water and steam for twenty five to thirty minutes.
Serve the chicken at the table in the ceramic or glass plate where it was cooked. The juices from the marinated chicken will impart a delicate flavour to the simply steamed courgette accompaniment.