Cooking with Alison

Steamed Whole Chicken with Ginger Scallion Sauce

In Meat and Eggs on May 17, 2010 at pm


This is the simplest steamed whole chicken recipe.  Not only is it incredibly healthy, it results in meat that is moist, smooth, and tender.  Since this is served with flavourful dipping sauces, there is no need to pre-marinate the chicken, so it makes for an easy weeknight dinner.  The ginger scallion dip (recipe below) is also very healthy.  Update: Someone asked me how to steam cook a larger chicken – I recommend doing two or more rounds (as necessary) of steaming with the heat on followed by steaming with the heat off.

I can’t help but think of my family (and laugh) whenever I make this.  This almost never makes it to the table when my mom makes it for dinner.  I have to give her credit for being persistent;  She spent years trying to fight us off of the chicken while she prepared the other dishes.  Whenever her attention was diverted, the four of us would descend like savages and run off with large chunks of chicken.  She finally gave up a few years ago, and started steaming 2 chickens – one as an appetizer and one to last through dinner.  🙂


Steamed Whole Chicken Recipe

one 3 pound chicken (preferably organic or grain fed and yellow skinned)

coarse salt

Dipping sauces:

ginger scallion dipping sauce (recipe below)

chili soy sauce (sodium reduced soy sauce infused with small red chilies that have been sliced thinly OR simply mix chili paste with sodium reduced soy sauce to taste)

Set up your steaming equipment (see here for instructions).  I use a glass rimmed dish set on a rack in a wok of water.  Wash the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle salt into the cavity of the chicken and place the chicken, breast side up, onto the glass dish in the wok.  Cover with a high domed lid and turn the heat on to high.  Once the water gets to the strongest boil and a lot of steam is escaping, set your timer for 20 minutes.  Do not reduce the heat.  At no time should you lift the lid.  If you do, add 1 minute to your steaming time.  After steaming for 20 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the chicken in the wok for 20 more minutes.  Once again, do not lift the lid at any time.  Then using thongs, lift the chicken carefully and pour out all of the juices from its cavity back into the glass dish that it was steamed in.  Reserve this chicken stock and use it for making soup or cooking other dishes, or add it to your master sauce (see here).  Set the chicken onto a clean plate and sprinkle salt over the entire surface of the chicken.  Then cover loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.  The chicken will be Just cooked through (you don’t want an overcooked chicken).  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, use a cleaver to chop off the drumsticks, wings and thighs.  Then remove the breast bone and back bones and chop the breasts into 4 or 5 pieces each, keeping the skin on.  Plate the chicken pieces and serve warm or at room temperature with ginger scallion dipping sauce and/or chili soy sauce.

Ginger Scallion Dipping Sauce Recipe

1/4 cup loosely packed grated fresh ginger

3 stalks green onions, green parts and light green parts sliced thinly

3 tbsp vegetable oil

large pinch coarse salt

1 tsp oyster sauce (optional)

Traditionally, the vegetable oil is heated until it just starts to smoke and then it is poured over the ginger and scallions. This method works best with finely grated ginger. Season generously with salt.

However, if your ginger is very old or is coarsely grated, you could do the following instead: Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pot over medium high heat.  Once the oil is very hot, add the ginger and stir constantly so that it does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add a generous pinch of salt (use less salt if you’re going to use oyster sauce).  Cook the ginger, stirring, for no more than 1 minute until it loses its raw bite. Note that if your ginger is old (ie. fibrous), it may take longer to cook.  Then add the green onions and turn off the heat.  Stir the green onions and cook until they just start to wilt.  Then remove from heat and dish out.  If you like more flavour, add the oyster sauce to the middle of the dip and serve.  The oyster sauce will inadvertantly get mixed with the rest of the dipping sauce as people dip their chicken pieces into it.

  1. This was brilliant. Classic simplicity. Ate the whole thing myself. Oh well.

    I’ve eaten it before–but the technique here is unique.

  2. It’s truly a nice and useful piece of info. I am glad that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. […] Cooking chicken by boiling or poaching is easy and great for making healthy, oil-free, meals.  It may sound bland, but this results in deliciously moist meat and a pot of chicken stock.  When boiling or poaching chicken, you want to use meat that still has the skin on and the bone in, so you can purchase cheaper cuts of meat and save money while eating healthy.  You can boil a whole chicken or pieces of chicken.  Shred the cooked meat and use it in salads, sandwiches, wraps, soup or, my favourite, bang bang chicken (recipe here).  Another healthy and simple way to cook chicken is by steaming (see recipe here). […]

  4. We have this dish all the time in chinatown, ny. I am attempting to cook it right now. Hopefully I can use and electric wok. I tried to make it once before in a pot but i think my chicken was too big and maybe I did not do it correctly.

  5. […] a popular dish from Asia, this recipe packs all the flavor without being […]

  6. I need to thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting this. My mother lost her battle to cancer in September, it happened suddenly so I didn’t get a chance to ask her about my favorite childhood recipes. This dish was among them (I can relate to your story exactly). I tried asking family but no one knew the time that she cooked the chicken for and the internet had various answers. This recipe was similar to what I remember watching her do and it is EXACTLY it!!!! My sons devoured it as well. I’m so grateful to be able to re-create this dish and feel like she is still around to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I look forward to exploring your recipes more now. Thank you.

    • Hi Justina,
      First of all, my apologies for my delayed response! Thank you so much for writing such a meaningful comment! I was SO SO sorry to hear about your loss. 😦 I felt so grateful that my recipe reminded you of your mom’s cooking. My thoughts are with you and your family and I wish you all the best! Would love to know what some of your other family favourite Chinese dishes are!
      Kind regards,

      • Dear Alison,
        I’m so glad I had this recipe up on my browser because I did not know you responded! I love many dishes, among them are the star anise pork belly or shoulder with black mushrooms and hard boiled eggs(I can make that!) and of course homemade wontons and spring rolls. I never got the recipe for the latter two. This is random but I recently discovered this recipe and it’s so good

        • Thanks so much for sharing that link! I have bookmarked it and hope to try it soon. I always end up wasting miso paste so I’m excited to try this. Hope you’ve been well! so sorry I took so long to respond!

  7. PS- I use sesame oil instead (if you like the taste)

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