Moist and soft chicken is the hero of today’s dish, Crystal Chicken with Shallot and Ginger Dressing. By boiling the chicken pieces after coating them with cornflour/corn starch and quickly cooling them down, you can get a mass of shining, slippery chicken pieces.
Crystal Chicken with Shallot and Ginger Dressing is a cold dish that is perfect on a hot summer day. But even if it is winter, I don’t mind eating this dish because it is so tasty.
There is a Chinese dish called ‘crystal chicken’ (水晶雞), but it is quite different from the Japanese Crystal Chicken. The method of cooking and the appearance of the dish is different.
Crystal Chicken – Japanese version and Chinese version
Japanese Crystal Chicken is called ‘suishōdori’ (水晶鶏). The word ‘suishō’ (水晶) means crystal and ‘dori’ (鶏) is the same thing as ‘tori’, which means chicken. The sound is changed for easier pronunciation. It is named so because the coating on the chicken pieces shines and looks like crystal.
The Chinese version is a steamed whole chicken, without coating in cornflour. Before steaming the chicken, it is marinated in a special marinade. Dissect/slice the cooked chicken and serve it.
If you Google search images on ’水晶雞’, you will see how different they are from my Crystal Chicken. It’s almost like Hainanese Chicken. You need to Google search ‘水晶鶏’ to see the images of Japanese Crystal Chicken. Note that the Chinese characters for chicken are different between the two.
And if you Google search images on the English word ‘crystal chicken’, you will never find the one like the Japanese version. I wonder if my interpretation is somewhat incorrect…
What’s in my Crystal Chicken and Dressing
It is a very simple and quick chicken dish. The main ingredients are just chicken and few seasonings.
- Chicken breast – sliced to bite size pieces (see the photos in the subsequent sections). You can substitute it with chicken tenderloin, but I do not recommend chicken thigh.
- Sake, salt and pepper – to give a bit of flavour to the chicken before cooking.
- Cornflour/corn starch – to coat the chicken pieces before boiling.
The dressing is a sesame flavoured salty and sour sauce with plenty of shallots/scallions and ginger. You just mix these ingredients together. The sesame flavoured Shallots and Ginger Dressing makes the dish so tasty:
- Finely chopped shallots/scallions – this is the key ingredient of the dressing.
- Very finely chopped ginger – if you are not good at chopping very finely, you can grate it.
- Soy sauce – I used normal soy sauce but light soy sauce is OK too.
- Rice wine vinegar – in Japanese cooking, I always use rice wine vinegar as it has milder acidity. But you can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead.
- Sesame oil – any kind of sesame oil, black or white, is OK.
- Grated roasted white sesame seeds – to give extra sesame flavour and a different texture to the dressing.
Slicing chicken breast for Crystal Chicken
There is a specific way of slicing the chicken pieces for today’s dish. It is called ‘sogigiri’ (そぎ切り, shaving cut). I introduced sogigiri in my post Sashimi (Sliced Raw Fish) with some photos, but here is how I made the chicken pieces using sogigiri (refer to the step-by-step photo below).
Halve the chicken breast lengthwise to make two narrow pieces (photo 1). Place a chicken piece lengthwise on a cutting board with the thinner end to the left (for a right hander).
Starting from the left end of the chicken piece (for a right hander), place a knife perpendicular to the length of the meat and tilt it diagonally, say 45 degrees from the vertical position of the knife (photo 2). Slice the chicken at an angle into 1cm/⅜” thick pieces (photo 3, 4).
The greater angle the knife is tilted at, the wider piece of sliced chicken you get.
When you are slicing the thickest and widest part of the chicken piece, position the knife on a diagonal angle against the direction of the meat instead of perpendicular to it. This way you will be able to cut a smaller piece of chicken (photo 5).
Making Japanese Crystal Chicken
The shiny texture around the chicken pieces comes from cornflour/corn starch. When cornflour is heated with moisture, it becomes sticky and transparent. By coating the chicken pieces with cornflour and boiling them, the transparent film covers the chicken and it shines in the light.
Coating the chicken pieces with cornflour also encloses the good flavour and moisture of the chicken inside when boiled, resulting in moisture tasty chicken.
There is nothing difficult about cooking Crystal Chicken as you can see in the steps below:
- Slice chicken into 1cm thick bite size pieces
- Pound the chicken pieces lightly to tenderise
- Marinate the chicken in sake, salt and pepper for 10 minutes
- Pat dry the chicken pieces and coat them with cornflour
- Boil the chicken for a couple of minutes
- Transfer the chicken to ice water and cool them down quickly
The only tricky thing is picking up the chicken pieces from the boiling water. They are slippery. I was using cooking chopsticks and boy, it was difficult to pick them up with the round bamboo chopsticks. You can of course use tongs or a small sieve with a handle to pick them up.
Serving Crystal Chicken
Crystal chicken does not have a vivid colour, so I serve it on green vegetables. In today’s recipe, there are two options – cucumber ribbons and bok choy.
The length of the cucumber ribbons is about 12-15cm/4¾-6″. I use a vegetable peeler to make the ribbons.
Bok choy leaves need to be blanched. Cut off the end of the stem to remove most of the outer leaves. If the leaves are very wide, I halve them. Cool down the blanched bok choy quickly in cold water. Make sure you squeeze as much water out as possible when plating.
Here is the example of how I plate the greens.
Crystal Chicken with Shallots Ginger Dressing is an easy but tasty dish. You will be amazed to find that the chicken is so tender.
The chicken can be kept in the fridge for a day but the coating loses the clarity and becomes a bit sticky and cloudy. The flavour will still be good.
Moist and soft chicken is the hero of Crystal Chicken with Shallot and Ginger Dressing. By boiling the chicken pieces after coating them with cornflour/corn starch and quickly cooling them down, you can get a mass of shining slippery chicken pieces.
The dish is served cold, which is perfect on a hot summer day.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 1 chicken breast (about 300g/0.7lb, note 1)
- 1 tbsp cooking sake
- ½ tsp salt
- Finely ground white pepper (optional)
- 2½ tbsp cornflour/corn starch
- Ice water in a bowl
- ½ cup shallots/scallions , finely chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger , very finely chopped or grated
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar, apple cider vinegar)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ roasted white sesame seeds , grated
- Thin ribbons of cucumber (about 15cm/6" long, note 2)
- Blanched bok choy (I used 1 stalk per serving, 3)
Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise. Place a chicken piece on a cutting board lengthwise with the thinner end to the left (for a right hander).
Starting from the left end of the chicken piece (for the right hander), position a knife perpendicular to the length of the meat and tilt it diagonally. Slice the chicken at an angle to 1cm/⅜” thick.
When you are slicing the thickest and widest part of the chicken piece, position the knife with an angle against the direction of the meat instead of perpendicular to it so that you will be able to cut a smaller piece of chicken (note 4).
Spread the chicken slices on the cutting board without overlapping, cover with a piece of baking paper, then gently pound the chicken to tenderise.
Put the chicken pieces in a bowl, add sake and salt. Massage the chicken ensuring that every chicken piece is coated with the seasoning. Leave for 10 minutes.
While marinating the chicken, prepare and mix all the ingredients of Shallot and Ginger Dressing.
Pat dry chicken pieces with kitchen paper.
Boil sufficient amount of water in a medium-size pot.
Put cornflour on a plate, coat chicken pieces thoroughly with the cornflour, then gently drop the chicken pieces in one at a time. Do not overcrowd the pot with too many chicken pieces. I did it in few batches (note 5).
Boil the chicken pieces for about 2 minutes. Do not mix or fiddle with the chicken pieces while boiling as the coating may come off.
Using chopsticks or a sieve pick up the chicken pieces from the boiling water and transfer them to the ice water.
Repeat steps 4 - 6 for the remaining chicken pieces.
When the last batch is cooled down, drain the water using a sieve.
Fold each cucumber ribbon in half and place it around the plate with the folded side outward. If using bok choy, make a circle on a plate with the bok choy stems by laying each of them in the same direction.
Pile the chicken pieces in the centre, then pour the Shallot and Ginger Dressing over the chicken.
1. Instead of chicken breast, you can use chicken tenderloin. You will be surprised how tender and juicy the chicken pieces are.
2. I use a vegetable peeler to make cucumber ribbons. Trim the both ends. Run a peeler from one end to the other end straight down, pressing the blade of the peeler against the cucumber so that the thickness of the ribbon becomes consistent. If you don’t press the blade, you tend to finish peeling half-way.
When the cucumber becomes thin, place the cucumber on your palm after catching the end with the blade and move the peeler along the flesh, pressing the blade against the cucumber on your palm.
The quantity of cucumber ribbons you make is up to you. I used a long cucumber cut to 15cm/6" long ribbons.
3. I cut the end of the stem to remove most of the outer leaves. If the white part of the leaf is very wide, I halve the entire leaf vertically. I also halve or quarter the inner leaves attached to the stem.
After blanching the bok choy, quickly cool it down in cold water. Squeeze out as much water as possible when plating it.
4. If you don’t do this, you will end up with a very wide piece of chicken. Alternatively, slice large, wide pieces and cut them into smaller size pieces.
5. It is better to coat the chicken pieces with flour batch by batch immediately before boiling. If the cornflour is on the chicken for a while, it absorbs the moisture from the chicken and loses the crystal look when boiled.
6. The chicken can be kept in the fridge for a day but the coating loses the clarity and becomes a bit sticky and cloudy. The flavour will still be good.
7. Nutrition per serving. It does not include greens.
serving: 486g calories: 406kcal fat: 18g (28%) saturated fat: 2.8g (14%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 6.5g monounsaturated fat: 6.3g cholesterol: 110mg (37%) sodium: 1106mg (46%) potassium: 757mg (22%) carbohydrates: 21g (7%) dietary fibre: 3.5g (14%) sugar: 3.3g protein: 38g vitamin a: 1% vitamin c: 5.7% calcium: 13% iron: 19%