My mom is usually the cook in the family (either due to traditional cultural gender roles or due to her control freak-esque distrust of my dad’s cooking–one year for Thanksgiving when she was out of town visiting her parents in Taiwan, my dad made duck and told me not to tell her because she thought it was too fatty; I have obviously inherited his taste because I love duck) so when my dad is in charge of dinner, he takes it very seriously and is very proud of his cooking. The one dish he typically makes (others include French toast and soy sauce fried eggs) is ma you ji, directly translated to “sesame oil chicken.” I didn’t know this was a typically Taiwanese thing until I tried to Google a recipe and of course my parents are no help because they just give me the Chinese name without any concrete translation (decoding dim sum menus is especially fun). So anyway, a Taiwanese restaurant recently opened near my house but it doesn’t have sesame oil chicken on the menu, and this missing dish set me on a craving and I figured I should just ask my dad how he made is. He didn’t give any measurements or time, so I supplemented with a Saveur recipe.
My dad suggested the vodka if I didn’t have michiu, but I didn’t use it; I used equal amounts of shaoxing (Taiwanese rice wine) and sake instead. Other ingredients were about a 1/4 cup dark sesame oil, 1 lb. chicken drumsticks and about 1 lb. chicken breast, one knob of ginger.
Peel, smash, and roughly chop 3-4 in. long piece of ginger. Heat 2-3 Tb. dark sesame oil in wok or pan (I used a deep cast iron skillet) over medium / medium high heat. Saute ginger for a couple minutes to release flavor.
Add bone-in chicken (I used drumsticks and also a boneless, skinless chicken breast that I had to use up; the bone-in chicken cooks much tastier) chopped in two or three pieces. Brown and coat with oil for a couple minutes over medium high. At moments throughout cooking, I drizzled extra sesame oil over the meat.
After a few minutes, add Chinese rice wine (typically michiu, but I only had Shaoxing, which I read is a little less alcohol and milder than michiu, so I did half a cup Shaoxing and half a cup of an old bottle of sake that seemed to only get more potent with age), bring to a boil, then cover and simmer.
Simmer simmer simmer…
A little more than halfway through the cooking process, I tasted the broth and it tastes reeeeally alcoholy (hmm), so I added a little more sesame oil. Cooking mellowed it out, of course, so you can really just season to taste with wine and oil. I also sprinkled some black pepper and leeks over the top of the meat.
Not very impressive looking, but it’s really tasty and perfect for a cold night.