Smokey Jeju’s Cafe

In food on 06/01/2009 at 6:55 pm

The other half and Goth Girl hosted a graduation linner at our new pad yesterday afternoon. We threw the thing together in under a week, much to my anal retentive dismay. But it all turned out swell in the end, especially the dish of the year for which we transformed our beloved steamer into a smoker. The chicken didn’t know what awesomeness hit it. We now have a new secret weapon!

Much has been written about the titans of European cuisine, the Jacques Pepins of the Western hemisphere. But what about the more superior Asian repertoire and its ringleaders? Nowadays I fawn over Masaharu Morimoto’s appearances on Iron Chef, but I grew up watching Fu Pei Mei work her magic on afternoon overseas Chinese TV. Mother claimed to be a direct disciple of the legend. That’s the culinary equivalent of saying you trained in kung fu with Bruce Lee. Maybe that’s part of what makes me such a food fanatic. It’s in the genes.


For every soiree I like to make something with a degree of difficulty or new technique which will be a challenge. I was flipping through one of Fu Pei Mei’s tomes, a lesser known one printed in Japan that was published after her classic triology containing all the classic dishes of modern Chinese cuisine. This one is spiral bound and only in English, which is surprisingly correctly translated. I read the triology for the comedy inherent in the FOB phrasing.

Anyways, I came across this tea-smoked chicken recipe, Beijing-style. We needed an obligatory chicken dish, and my Singaporean friend was actually dragging his butt over from the East Side of Manhattan, so I thought since this recipe featured the Szechuan peppercorns he gave me awhile back, it would be worth a try. I’d also been curious about smoking meats. Our Turkish friend has a dedicated smoker, which was rigged to exhaust out of the spare bedroom window, and I’d seen La Caja China online, but I didn’t really want to shell out the bucks for a large contraption.

While we were smoking it over the stove, I had my doubts. You know when you’re cooking, you’re in the hurricane eye, so you can’t actually smell the flavors of the food accurately. But when I bit into that organic thigh, I almost cried. It was just as good (if not better because of the QQ texture of the hormone-free flesh) as the stuff I thought you could only get in wedding banquet restaurants. The flavor is even better than the simply charcoal grilled European meats because it’s not just soot, it’s the tea/flour/sugar smoking mixture, and the par boiling of the meat beforehand in something akin to phô stock to inject moisture. I made the classic ginger-scallion dipping sauce to accompany the chicken. I can’t remember when I’ve been so happy about a dish I made. Slam dunk on the first try baby!

1 chicken (or an amalgam of quarters)
4 Tbsp Szechuan peppercorns (grind after toasting for more surface area coverage)
2 Tbsp salt (we used coarse Korean sea salt)
Cooking Liquid:
2 green onion, in 3″ pieces
1 chunk ginger, sliced
5 star anise
1 stick cinnamon or 1 tsp powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
8 cup water
Smoking Mixture:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup tea leaves (black or your favorite)
1 green onion, chopped
1 Tbsp ginger powder
parchment paper

Roast peppercorn until you smell that lemony heat. Add salt and toast until light brown. Rub over chicken pieces. Marinate overnight in Ziploc or plastic bag.

Start boiling cooking liquid ingredients. Let simmer 20 minutes. Add chicken and cook 20 minutes after liquid starts simmering again.

Prepare smoking mixture in steamer or wok or deep pot. Rig whatever works for you. Separate meat from mixture with wire rack or chopsticks and plates. Strain chicken pieces onto plate over the smoke.

Smoke over low heat for 30 minutes.

Tip: save cooking liquid for delicious stock

Dipping sauce:
grated ginger
chopped scallion
sesame oil
salt and pepper

Combine equal parts ginger and scallion in food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle oil while pulsing to thick consistency. Spoon over meats or rice.

f*ing awesomess

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s