Long ago, the Chinese figured out that the meat of the chicken carries just as much flavor, if not more, than its skin. Hence the tradition of poaching, which delivers pure flavor and tender-but-firm meat. Known as "white-cooked chicken," this classic Cantonese dish gets its name from the fact that the meat is simmered without soy sauce and therefore remains white.

White-cooked chicken traditionally is served cold or at room temperature. For this recipe, the cooks at Milk Street plunged the cooked chicken into an ice bath after poaching. They also tried "flashing" the scallions and= ginger with hot oil before making the dressing, but liked the brightness of the raw aromatics better.

Chinese White Cooked Chicken with Ginger-Soy Dressing


For the chicken and poaching broth:

  • 3 to 4-pound chicken, giblets discarded
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 cups dry sherry or mirin
  • 4-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into four pieces and smashed
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

For the dressing:

  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 pound napa or savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (4 cups)


Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while making the broth. Reserving a few sprigs for garnish if desired, cut the cilantro bunch in half crosswise, separating the stems and leaves. Use kitchen twine to tie the stems and scallions into a bundle.

Chop enough of the cilantro leaves to measure 1/2 cup and set aside. (Save the remaining cilantro leaves for another use.)

In a large pot (at least eight quarts), combine the cilantro-scallion bundle with the remaining broth ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat.

Using tongs, lower the chicken into the broth breast side up, letting the liquid flow into the cavity. If the chicken isn't fully submerged in the broth after flooding the cavity, weigh it down with a plate.

Allow the broth to return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes, adjusting the temperature as necessary to maintain a bare simmer; flip the chicken to be breast side down after 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the pot from the burner and let the chicken sit in the hot broth for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes.

While the chicken rests, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of the poaching broth, the scallions, soy sauce, vegetable oil, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar.

Using a sharp knife, remove the legs from the chicken by cutting through the thigh joints, then separate the thighs from the drumsticks. Carve the breast meat from the bone and slice each breast crosswise into four pieces.

Discard the chicken skin, if desired. Spread the cabbage on a serving platter, then arrange the chicken pieces on top. Pour the dressing over the chicken and sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Don't use cooking sherry for this recipe; it usually has added sodium and little, if any, actual sherry flavor. Look for a high-quality (but affordable) dry sherry and keep the remainder refrigerated to use in pan sauces, soups, or even cocktails. Mirin, a rice wine, is a decent stand-in and usually is available in the Asian foods aisle of the grocery store. If possible, opt for hon-mirin over the sweeter aji-mirin.

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