Chinese Main Dish – Quick Braised Sea Cucumber, Chicken and Mushroom

Chinese Meat - 001A Braised sea cucumber, chicken n mushrooms edited re-sized

Lavish Chinese banquets for birthdays and weddings conjure up memories of rich, delicious and exotic dishes which take several hours to prepare. I try to think of ways to take short cuts without sacrificing taste and nutrition value. Here is my take of this dish which I believe is as quick as it can be. With Chinese New Year just round the corner, it would be an easy dish to serve at your reunion meal.

You will learn how to use a small thermal pot to cook this braised dish but if you don’t possess one, this shouldn’t stop you from cooking it. Just do it the normal way. This thermal pot was a free gift that came along with some other purchase. Until now, I had been using it to cook green and red bean soup and not for strong and longer stewing. Well, it worked well enough. In two or three of my earlier posts (click here for Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs) I had featured the use of a heavy duty thermal pot.

 Some comments about the Ingredients

1. The first of my short cuts. Buy a normal size (as opposed to the family size) ready roasted chicken from the supermarket. Some are afraid of using a cleaver to cut up the chicken as it requires some skill. The supermarket will be happy to cut it up for you. A good substitute for this roasted chicken is half of a large Teochew Braised duck from a Food Court and ask for it to be cut up.

2. Sea cucumber. The photo shows large chunks of re-constituted sea cucumber which I had prepared my self (Click here for my post on how to do this). The other short cut is to purchase prepared ones in the wet or supermarket. At the wet market you will find them for sale by the Yong Tau Foo lady.

3. Dried scallops. To economise as dried scallops are also a costly ingredient, purchase scallop chunks instead of whole scallops. These chunks are whole dried scallops which have fallen apart due to some handling. Give them a quick rinse to clean them.

4. Instant dashi granules. Another short cut. Although dashi is of Japanese origin, adding this into the sauce was just a flash of creativity when I opened my fridge. Yes, it added a further dimension to the flavour.

Preparation

STEP 1. Cut the roast chicken into serving size pieces. I usually remove the back bone and use that for making chicken stock. Using a pairs of kitchen sears to snip along the rib cage to remove the back bone is effective. With a sharp cleaver or a 9 to 10″ chef’s knife, you will be able to cut the chicken. Arrange pieces decoratively in a large deep dish and set aside.

 Step by Step Cooking with a Thermal Pot

STEP 2. Heat the thermal pot over medium high fire and add 1 Tbsp of cooking oil and that tsp of lard (or use 2 Tbsp of cooking oil). Add in the re-constituted mushrooms and stir fry them for about 3 mins or so, till they give a hint of fragrance.

STEP 3. Add the re-constituted sea cucumber and continue to stir fry for another 3 mins or so to bring out its flavour. This lightly caramelises the 2 ingredients.

STEP 4. Add in the dried scallops.

STEP 5. Add in the sauce which is made up of instant dashi, oyster sauce, sugar and water. This sauce should cover all the other ingredients by about 2 cm. Cooking in a thermal pot doesn’t evaporate any liquid and most of the ingredients have already been re-constituted. When sauce comes to boil, cover and heat thermal pot for about 10 to 12 mins.

STEP 6. Remove inner pot from the fire, lift it into the outer pot, and close the outer cover tight. Stand undisturbed for an hour. Uncover outer and inner covers of the thermal pot. Use a spoon to test the mushroom and sea cucumber for softness. If the sea cucumber is still in its large chunks but softer and some what gelatinous, it is ready. If not, place inner pot over the fire and cook covered for another 10 mins. Then, replace inner pot into the outer pot and close outer cover tightly for another 30 mins or so. It is difficult to give you exact time as it all depends on the size and thickness of both the shitake mushrooms and the sea cucumber. The photo above STEP 8 should help.

STEP 7. Scoop all the ingredients over the prepared dish of cut up chicken, leaving the sauce. Place inner pot over the heat source again and thicken sauce with a cornflour slurry. Cook over low heat.

STEP 8. Pour sauce over the dish as shown in photo above. Seal dish with a sheet of aluminium foil and steam in a steamer oven or over a rack in a wok of boiling water for 30 mins.

RECIPE

Serves 4 to 6 persons

Ingredients

  • 1 roast chicken (normal size from the supermarkets and not the large family size)
  • 3 re-hydrated sea cucumbers
  • 50 gm (about 6 to 7) re-hydrated dried shitake mushrooms, cut into halves
  • 15 gm dried scallops

Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp instant dashi
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 rounded tsp of lard
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ( or 2 Tbsp if you are not using lard)
  • Cornflour Slurry (for thickening)

Method:

1. Cut the roast chicken into serving size pieces. Arrange pieces decoratively in a large deep dish and set aside.

2. Heat the thermal pot over medium high fire and add 1 Tbsp of cooking oil and that tsp of lard (or use 2 Tbsp of cooking oil). Add in the re-constituted mushrooms and stir fry them for about 3 mins or so, till they give a hint of fragrance.

3. Add the re-constituted sea cucumber and continue to stir fry for another 3 mins or so to bring out its flavour. This lightly caramelises the 2 ingredients.

4. Add in the dried scallops.

5. Add in the sauce which is made up of instant dashi, oyster sauce, sugar and water. This sauce should cover all the other ingredients by about 2 cm. Cooking in a thermal pot doesn’t evaporate any liquid and most of the ingredients have already been re-constituted. When sauce comes to boil, cover and heat thermal pot for about 10 to 12 mins.

6. Remove pot away from the heat source and lift it into the outer pot, and close the cover tight. Let it stand for an hour. Uncover outer and inner covers of the thermal pot. Use a spoon to test the mushroom and sea cucumber for softness. If the sea cucumber is still in its large chinks but softer and some what gelatinous, it is ready. If not, place inner pot over the heat source and cook covered for another 10 mins. Then, replace inner pot into the outer pot and close outer cover tightly for another 30 mins or so.

7. Scoop all the ingredients over the prepared dish of cut up chicken, leaving the sauce. Place inner pot over the heat source again and thicken sauce with a cornflour slurry. Cook over low heat.

8. Pour sauce over the dish as shown in photo above. Seal dish with a sheet of aluminium foil and steam in a steamer oven or over a rack in a wok of boiling water for 30 mins. Serve garnished with finely shredded spring onions.

Cooking this Dish in California, for Daughter in-law’s confinement

When my daughter-in-law expressed a desire to eat a braised sea cucumber dish, this recipe came straight to mind. I found frozen prepared sea cucumber at their usual Chinese grocer, Ranch 99. A photo of the brand is shown below. What a blessing that was! The variations which I had made to my recipe were,

  • roasting my own free range chicken instead of getting an already roasted one at the grocery;
  • adding a tablespoon of shredded ginger to Step 2 (with the mushrooms).

Serving Suggestions

Serve this dish to impress your dinner guests! Depending on the number of people and their dietary preference, suggestions of accompanying dishes are listed below. HINT: Try to use those ingredients that are currently in the fridge, freezer or larder. A sample weekly marketing check-list can be found here, click.

Chinese Soups

1. Jin Hua Ham and Winter Melon Soup. Click here.

2. Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs. Click here.

3. Radishes and Dried Squid. Click here.

4. Pork Stomach with Peppercorn. Click here

5. Tang Ho with Fishballs. Click here

Seafood dishes

1. Dry Assam Seafood. Click here

2. Fried Fish with Fermented Black Bean Sauce. Click here.

3. Stuffed You Tiao (Baked).  Click here.

Meat dishes

1. Beef Rendang (spicy). Click here

2. Singapore Curry Chicken (spicy). Click here.

Vegetable Dishes

1. Broccoli and Meat/Tofu Stir Fry. Click here.

2. Spinach in Broth with 3 types of eggs. Click here.

3. Pork, Spinach and Egg Stir Fry. Click here.

4. Shanghai Cabbage with Oyster Sauce & Garlic. Click here.

Try a little fusion addition with these complimentary Japanese dishes.

1. Chawan Mushi. Click here.

2. Simmered Pumpkin. Click here.

3. Tofu no Shira-ae. Click here.

Dessert

A plate of cold, freshly cut seasonal fruits is always appropriate. Perhaps you had time to make a dessert like one of the several listed below?

1. Almond Jelly + Longans Click here.

2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees. Click here.

3. Sweet Potato Dessert Soup. Click here.

4. Sago Pudding. Click here.

5. Orange Agar Agar. Click here.

6. Caramel Custard. Click here.

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