Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Soy sauce chicken

In keeping with the comfort food theme I've been prattling on about recently, I thought I'd post another go-to dinner that never fails to please: soy sauce chicken.

Although I have served this to guests on numerous occasions, it's what my dad would have called "home food," not something you'd get in a restaurant, because it's so plain. I suppose it's because of this that when I do entertain with it, I serve it to my closest friends--those I like so much I don't consider them guests, but family.

My sister is the one who originally shared this recipe with me, and since then I've come across many variations, especially in Hawaiian cookbooks--some of which include vinegar (making it more of a chicken adobo), or  star anise, which adds a great spiciness. But I always fall back on the old basic recipe she gave me years ago, because it's simple, quick, requires no attendance on the stove, and is one of the husband's favorites.

Any kind of soy sauce will do: light, dark, low-sodium, whatever. You can lessen the sugar if a whole cup freaks you out. You can use any mix of chicken parts, although I think dark meat works best. And if you've planned ahead, you can dress it up with chopped scallions or toasted sesame seeds.

One thing I think is non-negotiable is serving it with steamed rice. It just doesn't go with anything else.

Whenever I make soy sauce chicken, I make enough for two dinners. I even double the rice, in anticipation of enjoying fried rice a few days later, either for dinner or for breakfast. Old rice is the secret to good fried rice.

Soy sauce chicken has all the makings of a repertoire staple: it's cheap, has very few ingredients, is quick to make, and everyone loves it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Soy sauce chicken (serves 4)

8 chicken thighs or 4 whole legs
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
a few pieces of ginger, no need to peel

Place soy sauce, water, sugar, and ginger in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Stir to help sugar dissolve. Carefully slip the chicken into the sauce and turn to coat. Turn down heat to medium low and cover. Let simmer for 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally.

Serve with rice and sauce on the side, removing ginger.


  1. Interesting, I love the simplicity of it. Is it sweet? Well, heh, clearly it has a sweetness to it, but would you call it a sweet dish?

  2. I am picturing a big bowl of fried rice with leftover soy sauce chicken chopped up in it. Sounds delicious!

  3. this does sound very easy and really tasty!

    love this one

  4. This recipe is super versatile too. To make it more Taiwanese, just replace the water with rice wine, cut down on the sugar, and add tons of basil! 3-cup chicken!

  5. Mmmm...yum. This reminds me of a dish my mum used to make, very homestyle, we loved it. Our version didnt' have as much sugar, and contained a few cloves of whole unpeeled garlic and some rice wine as well. But I defintiely agree, serving with rice is a requisite! And fried rice for breakfast - talking my language :)

  6. The recipe I make more often these days has five-spice powder, scallions, and a splash of vinegar; but I might have to go back to old simplicity. Shoyu chicken also makes a good ramen topping. Garage sale, anyone?

  7. Bob: it's sweet but definitely overall a savory dish. But you could try it with half the sugar the first time and see how you like it.

    Apples and Butter: you read my mind!

    A Year on the Grill:you should give it a try!

    Tiny Urban Kitchen: I like the idea of the rice wine, I will have to give that a try.

    shaz: fried rice for breakfast is the best--in fact there's some in the fridge right now that I'm planning on having tomorrow!

    Jary: I think maybe you gave me that recipe too--I should dig it up. Ramen + garage sales = happy childhood memories...

  8. that does sound simple and comforting, I would be compelled to add garlic, sesame oil and a splash of dry sherry... and definitely with steamed rice and broccoli.

  9. I, too, have been trying to focus more on simple, fast meals on weeknights. (There's a blog post in the works...) This looks like a great one to add to the repertoire!

  10. Mmm...soy and ginger. ;) I made a dish with the same ingredients tonight...you know what they say about great minds?
    I love that "Go Home, Cook Rice" montage, too!

  11. foodhoe: I am starting to agree with all y'all--I should experiment a bit and see if I can't improve upon the original!

    croquecamille: Looking forward to your next post (as always!)

    Chef Aimee: Soy and ginger are a perfect combination, in my opinion!

  12. Sounds yummy! Easy too. With all the rain you've been getting, I bet this was a comfort!

  13. It's so funny that I've never thought to make this because I grew up eating this. But my parents always bought this at a Chinese deli. They never made it, themselves. I guess that's why I've never cooked it, either. Thanks for showing me how easy it is to do. Perhaps easier than even getting in the car to drive to a Chinese deli! ;)

  14. five ingredients, one spectacular entree. i don't use soy sauce nearly enough.

  15. I love the color! I can't wait to try this....I have thawed chicken thighs in the fridge right now. It practically cooks itself, doesn't it? Think I will add a clove of garlic too.
    Did you catch George's blog on cooking rice today? (http://gmg706.blogspot.com/)

  16. Pam: yes,totally comforting!

    Food Gal: same here-my dad never made it either--we just picked it up in chinatown when we'd come to the city.

    grace: don't you love short ingredient lists?

    Barbara: let me know what you think! yes, garlic would be a great addition to it. I'll check out that blog, it's new to me. thanks!

  17. A simple but very beautiful recipe. The colors here are fabulous, and I totally want to try some.
    *kisses* HH

  18. I would not have thought to use a simple soy sauce base for chicken-Yet, it makes perfect sense. Your recipe, I have no doubt tastes really good. You are right, nothing but steamed rice would do with this recipe.

  19. This looks absolutely delicious! I love simple recipes packed with some much flavor.

    I am so glad you stopped by my blog, so I would know about yours. It looks like you have some wonderful recipes & tips. I look forward to browsing through many more of your very creative post.

  20. HH: thank you so much!

    Velva: Give it a try--it's simple and delicious and you could doctor it up any way you like.

    George: Thank you! I was so pleased to have found your blog as well and will be a regular visitor to your world, too! :)

  21. Fried rice is my ultimate comfort food.... and you are so right that old rice makes the best fried rice, so I always hope to have some left over whenever I make it.

  22. How easy is this? Perfect weeknight meal. Perfect weekend meal. Heh, that makes it a perfect meal. And with the broccoli the colors are superb. Great photo.

  23. Stace: you know who makes the best fried rice? Your dad!

    Kate: I agree--perfect any time!